MARYSVILLE — Everybody’s best friend. That’s how those who loved Washington State Patrol trooper Sean O’Connell described him.
On Friday, O’Connell’s friends, family and colleagues came together to remember his life. A year after his death, a monument was unveiled at the State Patrol District 7 headquarters here.
“It is a great day to honor a great man,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said.
O’Connell was a motorcycle trooper from Lake Stevens who was on the force for 16 years. He was killed May 31, 2013, in a vehicle accident while working traffic control in Conway related to the Skagit River I-5 bridge collapse.
O’Connell was the 28th trooper to die in the line of duty. He was married and had two children. More than 2,200 people attended O’Connell’s funeral at Comcast Arena in Everett last year.
Friday’s event was held under clear skies. Flags were lowered to half-staff. Yellow flowers were tied with blue ribbon. Several troopers wore black arm bands embroidered with O’Connell’s badge number, 1076.
Speakers included District 7 Cmdr. and Capt. Jeff Sass, Lt. Jeff Beazizo and Batiste.
O’Connell was remembered as someone with a great sense of humor, an strong work ethic and an infectious smile.
“He gave the best he had,” Beazizo said.
Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as the memorial was revealed to O’Connell’s family, who were accompanied by Chief Batiste. They embraced.
The monument is in front of the headquarters and features a colored photo of O’Connell set against dark marble. An inscription reads: “A man of honor, a man of integrity, the epitome of all we should strive to be …”
“Every time I walk into the office, I can remember Sean and his service,” trooper Mark Francis said.
Earlier on Friday, 83rd Avenue SE in Lake Stevens was designated an honorary street to honor O’Connell. The street will keep its original name, but a new sign bearing his name was unveiled on the corner of 83rd Avenue SE and 20th Street SE.
“We wanted an appropriate event to recognize a hero in the community,” said Lake Stevens City Councilman Sam Low,* who proposed the renaming.
After the ceremony in Marysville, people hugged and snapped pictures. Many stopped to speak privately with O’Connell’s wife and family.
“He had the ability to lift people up with his smile, service and humility,” Chaplain Mike Neil said. “People loved him for it.”