SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — More than 300 people, including Gov. Pete Ricketts and law enforcement officers from around the country, attended the funeral Thursday of a Nebraska state trooper killed in a crash in western Nebraska.
The funeral for Trooper Jerry Smith, 51, was held in Western Nebraska Community College’s gym in Scottsbluff a week after he died in a crash on Highway 26 in western Nebraska that also killed a 28-year-old man.
Smith, who had a lengthy career in the military that included being awarded a Bronze Star Medal, joined the patrol at age 47. He was believed to be the oldest person to complete the patrol’s Basic Recruit Camp, a distinction that earned him the nickname “Grandpa” among his training classmates, Ricketts said in remarks given during the funeral.
Ricketts lauded the public service of Smith and the more than 100 law enforcement officers who attended the funeral, noting that they often sacrifice time with their families and their own safety in an effort to protect others.
“Jerry Smith knew that. He made a career of it,” Ricketts said. Smith’s was “a life that was lived for others. I can’t think of a more noble mission than that.”
Smith’s daughter, Mechelle Smith, eulogized her father, saying he was a humble man who never spoke of the heroic acts of his military service that saw him awarded the Bronze Star. He cherished time with his family, she said, telling a story of a time Smith seriously injured his thumb while working on a mechanical project with one of his sons. Instead of seeking immediate help, he bandaged the open wound with paper towels and duct tape so he could keep working with his son.
“Five hours later, after finishing, he said, ‘I think we need to go to the hospital,'” Mechelle said. He ended up with seven stitches and a lecture about seeking quicker medical treatment for severe injuries.
Investigators have said the fatal crash that killed Smith happened when 28-year-old Derek Lacrete, of Lewellen, crashed into the back of a pickup truck stopped to make a left turn on the Highway near Bridgeport. The crash caused Lacrete’s SUV to veer into the oncoming lane, where it collided head-on with Smith’s patrol car. Lacrete also died.
Smith is survived by his wife of more than 30 years and three adult children.