LEESBURG, NJ (WTXF) - First responders and the community gathered at the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company Thursday night to say goodbye to their protector. New Jersey State Trooper Frankie Williams, 31, had been serving this community for less than a month, but these folks wanted to send a message.
"We are very dependent on them. We're very appreciative of them and we respect them very highly," one woman said.
Trooper Williams was driving on Route 55 in Millville City Monday night, responding to reports of an erratic driver, when a car driven by 61-year-old Lloyd Rudley crossed the median and hit him head-on, according to police. Both men died in the crash.
The local fire chief in Leesburg had worked with Williams at a crash scene just the night before and remembered a caring professional.
"Generally, we always try to keep a lane open so traffic is not inconvenienced." said Chief Walter "Bud" Hughes. But he said 'no let's block this off so that you guys are safe. We're all safe. The patients are safe.'"
As mourners gathered-- their lit candles in hand-- the Millville police chaplain recounted being pulled over by Williams six weeks ago. The description of Williams was the same: courteous and professional.
"When I came down, driving down this evening, I cried," said Chaplain Gerritt Kenyon to Williams' mother. "I cried. Because he represented New Jersey's finest!"
Victoria Williams held back tears as she listened to the outpouring of grief, love and support. It has lightened her heart-crushing burden.
"I just want you to know that I love you and I love the way you cared and appreciated my son," she told the crowd of mourners. "Because I appreciate what you've done for me. Every time I fall down you pick me back up!"
The formal goodbye for trooper Williams-- the viewing and funeral-- is now set for Monday in Atlantic City. But here in the small town that knew him best and counted on his protection this was the final "thank you.