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Brigham City • In the week since her husband died after he was struck by a car while working as a Utah Highway Patrol trooper, Janica Ellsworth has asked her three young sons what they miss most about their father, 31-year-old Eric Dale Ellsworth.
"Our life was simple but so good," she told more than 1,000 people who gathered at her husband's funeral Wednesday. "The little things we always did together are the things that I will miss the very most."
She remembered simple times of going to Mantua for ice cream, or eating hamburgers at Smith and Edwards. She wondered about whom she will watch their television shows with after the kids go to bed. Who will take joy in scaring her and chasing her up the stairs?
"I will be there for our kids when their hearts are breaking," Janica Ellsworth said. "I'll endure the lonely, quiet nights and an empty bed. I will try not to be too sad when I want to tell you something and you're not there. I love you, and everyone loves you."
Eric Ellsworth was a second-generation trooper and a seven-year veteran of the force. A car struck him on Nov. 18, and he died after several days in the hospital.
He was a 6-foot-2 "gentle giant" who loved serving and helping people.
Gov. Gary Herbert told those gathered at Weber State University's Dee Events Center that the trooper was someone Utahns should emulate.
"Eric truly does represent the very best that society has to offer," Herbert said. "He's a hero. A hometown hero."
Ellsworth's supervisor, Sgt. Shane Nebeker, said that the young trooper was ambitious and never wanted to appear to be slacking. If another trooper responded to more calls than he did on a snowy day, Ellsworth would call his sergeant and apologize "because he didn't think that he was doing enough."
Nebeker recalled an incident that occurred just last month, when Ellsworth encountered a man walking on the roadway with an open beer in one hand and a case in the other. The trooper shot the man with a stun gun after he threatened the trooper with a knife.
Ellsworth who didn't swear later apologized to Nebeker, saying, "Don't get mad when you watch the [dashcam] video. ... I told the guy to get off the damn road."
Nebeker recalled that Ellsworth loved to sneak up on troopers doing paperwork in their patrol cars, plastering his face onto their windows. He was known to hide in the weeds and jump out to startle his co-workers.
But more than anything, Ellsworth loved his family, Nebeker said. He talked often about his three sons Bennett, Ian and Oliver and the trouble they would get into.
"Eric didn't ask for time off for himself or his hobbies," Nebeker said. "He always took time off for his family."
Growing up with seven sisters, brother Mike Ellsworth said he and Eric Ellsworth had to stick together. They played cops and robbers while camping, loved being goofy around each other and would work out together.
"Eric showed me and my sisters how to be tough whether we liked it or not," Mike Ellsworth said during Wednesday's service.
At the Brigham City Cemetery that afternoon, Mike Ellsworth wept, tears rolling down his face, as he looked inside the hearse that carried his brother's flag-draped casket.
Bagpipes played as Ellsworth was carried to his final resting place. Fellow highway patrol troopers and other law enforcers throughout Utah and the nation filled the chilly, snow-covered cemetery to pay their respects to the trooper.
At the end of the brief graveside service, a final call for Ellsworth from a dispatcher came over a police radio.
"This is a final radio call for Trooper 395, Eric Ellsworth," the dispatcher said. "Thank you for your dedication to your family and friends, the highway patrol and the people of Utah. Our hearts are broken, but your legacy will live on forever. We will miss your sweet spirit and that beautiful smile. Thank you, Eric. God be with you until we meet again."
American flags lined the route to the cemetery, along with well-wishers from the community. Local businesses also displayed flags or messages of thanks and support to Ellsworth and his family.
Angelee Midget, who stood near the corner of 200 South and Main in Brigham City, said she took her kids of out of school for the day so they could see the procession and how important it was.
"He was an honest, fair, decent police officer who cared about Box Elder County and its residents," she said. "We're here to show our respects for the family and UHP."
Another bystander, Trevor Jones, said he also wanted to support Ellsworth and law enforcement.
"Police are an important thing in our town; we need them and respect their service," he said. "We appreciate it. My father was a police officer growing up, so it kind of hits home."
On Nov. 18, at about 9:45 p.m., Ellsworth had stopped to assist with a downed power line in Box Elder County and was trying to warn the driver of a semitrailer truck about the power line when a car driven by a teenage girl struck him, police have said. Ellsworth's brother-in-law Jason Moyes has called the crash "a tragic accident."
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder noted Wednesday, before the funeral service, that 2016 has been a tough year for Utah law enforcement.
On Jan. 17, Unified Police Officer Douglas Scott Barney II, 44, was killed in a confrontation with a fugitive parolee fleeing the scene of a car crash in Holladay.
On Nov. 6, West Valley City Officer Cody Brotherson, 25, was struck by a car and killed while laying a set of spike strips to stop the vehicle, which police believed was stolen.
"I was struck today when an individual said, 'Well, this is a little different, you know, the trooper was killed in an accident,' " Winder said. "It really struck me, because, a death is a death. When one is out in the community, protecting the community whether it is saving a life or protecting a roadway or involved in a violent encounter the reality is, the job these people do can cost them their life. This year, it has happened far too frequently."
Winder said Ellsworth's death shows that police aren't just there to arrest people, that they serve as community protectors.
"The act of standing on a darkened roadway and protecting people from driving into a power line is about as critical a function as one can do," he said. "This is a tragedy on many, many levels."
Tribune reporter Rich Kane contributed to this story.