KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Loved ones, law enforcement officers and the community came together Sunday to honor Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ryan Proxmire during a procession and memorial service.
Proxmire was killed last week in the line of duty.
Ahead of the service, a three and a half mile procession escorted Proxmire and his family to Miller Auditorium, where the memorial service took place.
Community members lined Stadium Drive between 9th and Howard streets in a show of support as the procession for Proxmire made its way through Kalamazoo.
Most families in attendance had strong ties to the law enforcement community.
Parents of three children in law enforcement showed up in support of their kids, saying their daughter worked with Proxmire at the Kalamazoo County Jail. The couple was emotional, saying it’s not lost on them that this could’ve been one of their own.
“It’s a heart-wrenching experience knowing at any one given time that could be your child that’s out there,” the father said.
Emotions ran high as the procession made its way down Stadium Drive.
“I can’t even describe the feelings that I’m starting to have already knowing that they’re on their way, I just can’t even describe it,” the mother of three police officers said.
With his hand over his heart, a retired police officer stood silent as he watched the hearse carrying Proxmire pass by as part of the procession.
The retired officer said these processions never get easier.
“In fact, it gets harder because it’s another officer dead,” he said.
As the crowd watched the procession of law enforcement cruisers from across the state roll by, one man spotted a familiar face.
Matt Sneary of Portage waved hello to his brother, who passed by in a Kentwood Police Department cruiser.
“He’s been wanting to be a police officer since he was just in his diapers, so to see him out there … is hard to see but also, it makes me feel really proud of him,” Sneary said.
‘WE LOVE YOU PROXY’
The memorial service included opening remarks from Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller, a flag folding and presentation by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office honor guard and a firing party by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety honor guard.
Proxmire’s wife and father were among those who spoke during the service.
“He would often ask me to go on a ride-along with him. He’d say that I’d like what I saw. That I’d get to see him interact. But I already liked what I saw,” Roanna Proxmire said.
His wife of 15 years gave a glimpse of the kind, funny and sometimes quiet man she fell in love with while trucking together across the country for work.
“I would joke with him that I couldn’t stay up past 9:48 p.m., but the truth was, I wasn’t brave enough to go. I didn’t want to see what he had to face every night,” she said about his service in law enforcement.
According to his coworkers, Proxmire was never afraid.
“Proxy would work and push so hard that he had his cruiser — number 55 — sounding more like a monster truck than a cruiser,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Christopher Hoffman said. “Hearing the roar of that car coming toward you was even more reassuring than any sounds of police sirens when you needed help.”
Proxmire, a nine-year veteran of the force in Kalamazoo County, died on Aug. 15 after a police chase and shootings the day before.
During the last call he would answer as a sheriff’s deputy, Proxmire continued to show heroism.
“I said, ‘Did you know him?’ They said, ‘No, but we were at the Shell (gas) station getting Subway that night and he and his friends made us safe by warning us of the danger and getting us to take cover,'” Fuller recalled from a conversation he had with community members who saw Proxmire the night before he died.
Proxmire has been posthumously promoted to sergeant.
“What a good son,” his father Mark said. “I’m so proud of him and what he has done.”
His colleagues said he was always the first to answer a call for help.
“Without Ryan, we would not be the people that are standing up here today. We can only hope to be half the deputy Ryan was,” Hoffman said. “We love you Proxy and we know 113 will always be there to assist us whenever we are in need of back up.”
Proxmire’s end of watch call was read during the service, and jets flew overhead after those in attendance exited.
A private family service preceded the procession. There is no public visitation.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered the U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff throughout the state Sunday in honor of Proxmire.
There are several fundraisers for the family, including a fundraiser by the Officer Collin Rose Memorial Foundation, which has raised more than $50,000.