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Funeral held for 1 of 2 Chicago police officers killed by train: ‘You could count on Conrad for anything’

Officer Conrad Gary was known on his beat, among fellow officers and among longtime friends as someone anyone could count on, a Chicago police chaplain said Friday in eulogizing the officer who was killed by a train along with another officer as the two chased a suspect this week.

Cardinal Blase Cupich concelebrated the Mass at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel, 7740 S. Western Ave, with other priests, including the Rev. Dan Brandt, a Police Department chaplain. The funeral of the other officer, Eduardo Marmolejo, will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the same church.

In his homily, Brandt told the more than 1,000 police officers, family members, friends and dignitaries gathered inside St. Rita that Gary was described by friends and other officers as someone who embodied the characteristics of being loyal and having honor and integrity.

At the Chicago Police Academy, Gary became the “go-to” person who helped other classmates, Brandt said. But he was known as a reliable friend long before that. A friend who joined the Marines told Brandt a story about how Gary would check on his mother and family while he was away, Brandt said.

“He was that kind of person, always putting others before himself,” the chaplain said. “I was told you could count on Conrad for anything.”

After he was assigned to the Calumet District on the Far South Side, Gary was became known as the police officer who was quick to provide backup to other officers, Brandt said.

Still, Brandt joked that Gary did have one flaw: He was a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, even though he lived on the South Side.

“Thank God we have a merciful God,” he said.

After Communion, Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson all spoke, addressing Gary’s family directly.

“You have a hole in your heart that can never be fully repaired,” Rauner said. “We all hope and pray that hole can be filled with the memories — the loving memories of your time with Conrad, the happy moments, the shared love can fill the hole.”

Gary joined the department in March 2017, and many expected him to move the ranks quickly, Johnson said. He had served as an officer during his time in the Air Force, much of it spent deployed in Germany.

“He brought the professionalism he learned with him,” Johnson said. “He was respectful to everyone he met.”

At work it was rare to hear Gary even curse, and he frequently treated his partner, Marmolejo, to coffee, Johnson said. But Gary’s wife, Kelly, told Johnson it wasn’t because he was a big spender but because he had a year’s worth of coffee coupons, the superintendent joked.

“That’s how he was buying all that coffee,” Johnson said.

He described Gary as having a sense of duty to help others as he described the last moments of Gary and Marmolejo. The men climbed a steep hill as they searched for evidence and for a suspect, Johnson said.

“They were determined to get an illegal weapon off the streets of Chicago,” Johnson said. “That’s what police do. Their only concern was getting the gun off the streets. This is what we ask our police officers to do.”

Emanuel said the deaths of Officers Gary and Marmolejo add to an already difficult year for Chicago police. Two other officers died earlier this year while on duty.

“They have brought tears to our eyes, sorrow to our souls and hurt to our hearts,” Emanuel said. “And as solemn as it is written, God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. Today we are united in prayer and God will heal the brokenhearted in the city, and that he will call all of Chicago’s gold-star families including the Gary family by name.”

As the funeral ended just before noon, Cupich offered condolences to police officers and encouraged the crowd to reflect on how important relationships were to Gary, pointing out how photos always showed him with someone.

“We need to be present to one another in this city,” the cardinal said. “To make sure that no one feels alone, particularly in the depth of their sorrow, their pain and their loss.”

The winter solstice, with the longest night of the year, coincidences with the night between the funerals for Officers Gary and Marmolejo, Cupich said. But he pointed out that the sun always slowly returns, and Cupich offered Gary’s young daughter, Tess, as a sign of hope. He told the crowd to look for signs of Gary in his daughter in the years ahead.

“The way that she will smile and walk but also the way in which generosity will spontaneously and almost naturally spring in her heart,” Cupich said. “For they will be a reminder that he lives on in her, but also as people of faith that he lives on as he stands before the Lord today, the risen Lord who gives him life, and that same Lord welcomes him into a day in which the sun will never set.”

Cupich led pallbearers as the casket was carried out of St. Rita and bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”

Earlier Friday, police officers in their dress uniforms began showing up at St. Rita at daybreak.

As some of the officers directed traffic, others carried rolled-up flags toward the chapel.

As the hours wore on before the funeral, scores of officers gathered outside the church, lining the sidewalks along with bagpipers. Many officers wore memorial buttons bearing photos of Gary and Marmolejo.

The funeral procession arrived outside the church about 9:30 a.m. after making its way from Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn, where Gary’s wake was held Thursday evening.

Bagpipers began playing about 9:45 a.m. and slowly began marching in front of the hearse as officers, politicians and others stood at attention before Gary’s casket, draped with an American flag because of his service in the Air Force, was taken out and brought into the church.

Earlier, schoolchildren and teachers lined part of the route, many of them holding their hands over their hearts.

Standing with eight troopers outside before the funeral procession arrived, Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said he was attending Friday’s funeral to show his support for Gary’s family.

“Our jobs are to protect the people, take care of the people,” Schmitz said. “That’s what we love to do. Sometimes we lose our lives doing that.”

He said he wanted to continue to support and help Gary’s family, particularly his infant daughter.

“We want those families to know that we’ll always be there for them,” Schmitz said. “And that’s just not a statement. … Until the day we die, we’ll do what we can to take care of those families and help those children grow up as they lost their fathers in this case.”

Thursday evening, hundreds waited in a quiet, somber line that snaked around Blake-Lamb Funeral Home, waiting to enter for Gary’s wake.

The mourners spanned generations, with some there because they knew his parents or other distant family members. Some mourners didn’t know Gary or his family. They said they came as members of the community wanting to thank him for his service.

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