PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Hilary Campbell choked back tears at her husband’s memorial service Tuesday as she stepped to the podium to let the crowd know she’ll make sure the couple’s 6-month-old son grows up knowing how selfless his dad was.
She was among 3,000 mourners, including law enforcement officers from Canada and as far away as California, who spent Tuesday remembering the life of Maine State Police Det. Ben Campbell, who died last Wednesday while assisting a motorist.
“I can’t begin to say everything I want to say. So I’ll just say that I love you. I love you with every piece of my being,” Hilary Campbell told the crowd. “I promise you I’ll do everything I can to raise our son as we planned.”
Campbell, 31, was fatally injured when a tire dislodged from a logging truck and struck him while he was outside his vehicle alongside Interstate 95. He was headed to a training event when he stopped to help a driver.
Campbell’s selflessness and desire to put other people first was a theme during Tuesday’s service, which brought uniformed officers to tears at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. The arena is normally a venue for concerts and hockey games.
Among the law enforcement personnel driven to emotion was Colonel John Cote, the chief of the Maine State Police. Cote said Campbell “helped others see the light in some of our darkest days” with his warm smile and cheerful attitude. That even extended to the people he arrested, Cote said.
“He understood just because he was arresting someone did not mean that person was a career criminal. Ben would talk to those folks, and through those conversations, he would learn that many times the conduct that led to the arrest was simply the result of problems and circumstances within that person’s life,” Cote said.
Rhode Island State Police Colonel James Manni and 20 troopers attended Campbell’s funeral to represent the state and honor his memory.
In a phone interview Tuesday night, Manni said the funeral underscores the dangers troopers face on the highways every day.
“I was sitting next to the Massachusetts State Police Colonel,” Manni said. “And when the Maine Colonel was giving his eulogy, we both looked at each other and said we hope we never have to do this.”
Manni said situations like these give him resolve to keep Rhode Island troopers as safe as possible with the best equipment and adequate manpower.
“Just watch what they do every day to make sure that they have the safest possible conditions,” he explained. “Whether it’s the enactment of new laws or initiatives to work with the DOT on.”
Campbell is originally from Easthampton, Massachusetts and graduated from Westfield State University. The memorial drew personnel from dozens of police agencies in New England and beyond.
It was also the largest gathering of Maine state troopers in history, said Steve McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine State Police. Sheriff’s deputies backed up the agency, McCausland said.
Campbell’s badge number, 1282, will be retired, McCausland said. That number appeared on the badges and license plates of hundreds of law enforcement officers who attended Tuesday’s service. The service poured out from the arena into the street, where Hilary Campbell clutched a folded American flag and light snow fell.
Police are still investigating how the wheels came loose from the logging truck on I-95 in the Hampden area, south of Bangor. The wheels weigh about 200 pounds each. The driver of the logging truck was Scott Willett, owner of a trucking company.
The driver Campbell was assisting, Robert John Anthony of Clifton, thanked Campbell in a public Facebook post that was read aloud as part of Tuesday’s service.
“You traded your life for mine in the line of duty. I vow for as long as I live, I will never forget your smile. I will never forget your kindness. I will never forget your sacrifice,” the post said.