"My dad was the best. And he was my best friend," said Grady Johnson, who is now 12 years-old.
Party balloons and pictures were on display outside the Lake Morey Inn. It was a celebration on this Father's Day for a dad who can't be here. "Father's Day is always going to be hard for us," said Kerrie Johnson.
On Father's Day five years ago, Kerrie Johnson and her three kids suffered a tragic loss. Her husband, Sergeant Michael Johnson, a state trooper, was killed after being run-over by a fleeing suspect in a car.
"He would do anything for anyone. He helped anyone who needed it," said Johnson's daughter, Reilly.
His generosity was clear by the turnout at a gathering in his honor. Family, friends, and fellow law enforcement officers poured in to remember a man who meant so much to so many, especially his kids. "I would like to be like my dad someday," said Grady. The youngest, McKendrick, was just six years-old when his dad died. He had made him a Father's Day card five years ago that remains unopened. "He never got to read it. So, it makes me really sad," he said.
Sergeant Johnson's memory lives on through his service to Vermont as a dedicated state trooper. But there was much more behind the green and gold uniform. Like his big appetite, especially for chocolate chip cookies, his singing -- he had just started a DJ service, his love of sports -- especially the Giants, his infectious smile. "Nobody can forget his smile," said Kerrie.
And his love for his kids. And on Father's Day, his family misses him even more. "If I could take their pain away, I would. It's been hard. He was an amazing person. I knew what an amazing father he was going to be and he lived for his kids," said Kerrie.
"When we go through this time of year and Father's Day," said Reilly, choking back tears. Her mom finished her thought. "She doesn't want to be different. Wants it to be normal. The same. And it's never going to be," said Kerrie.
Never the same. But he's never forgotten either. "Michael lived his life treating people the way he wanted to be treated. That's a great way to remember somebody," said Kerrie.
And we do.
Eric Daley, the man who ran over and killed Trooper Johnson, was eventually caught after he fled the state. He was convicted in 2004 and is serving a 26 to 33 years in jail.
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