State trooper remembered for ‘gentle, fun-loving spirit’
BY CASEY TONER Sun-Times Media April 2, 2013 8:36PM
Updated: May 4, 2013 6:48AM
Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau remembered fallen Trooper James Sauter during Tuesday’s funeral service as a man who had a lasting impact on everyone who knew him.
“His gentle and fun-loving spirit will always be with us,” Grau said. “Trooper Jim Sauter, your watch has ended.”
Grau was one of many family, friends, well-wishers and emergency responders who packed Moraine Valley Baptist Church in Palos Heights for Sauter’s funeral. His casket was draped in an American flag, and the Illinois state flag and an Illinois State Police flag stood nearby.
Sauter, 28, died Thursday after a semi truck hit his police cruiser on the Tri-State Tollway in Northbrook. He was a southwest suburban Chicago Ridge native and a graduate of Richards High School in Oak Lawn.
Sauter, who is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and other family, had been a trooper for nearly five years. Thousands of police and other first responders showed up at the funeral.
An Illinois State Police spokeswoman said troopers from more than 25 states attended the funeral.
Matt Sauter, James’ younger brother and a student at Richards High School, opted out of a tie and wore a Superman shirt in honor of his brother, a longtime fan of the superhero. He also had all of the state troopers, dressed in their formal green suitcoats, stand so he could thank them.
“He always tried being my second father,” Matt said. “I’m blessed with a gift many don’t have. A gift of a big brother.”
Choking up, Matt said his brother was still in his heart and always will be.
“I’ll do everything as long as possible to be like he was,” Matt said.
The service alternately was solemn and lighthearted. Sauter’s aunt, Patti Duffin, remembered how she once put James, the eldest of the cousins, in charge of the other children for a round of trick or treating.
Since the children were young, she made James promise to only hit up six houses on the block. But to get more candy, James had all the kids switch costumes and hit up the same houses more than once.
“He must have had a feminine side, because he took the outfit of Wonder Woman,” Duffin said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Tony Ferraro, Sauter’s brother-in-law, talked about the love Sauter had for his wife. He remembered watching a music video of Sauter singing the Ace of Base hit single “The Sign” to her from his squad car.
“We laughed at how he would sing and dance like a madman,” Ferraro said.
He also noted similarities between Sauter and Superman, starting with their height and muscles.
“Though he may not have been able to leap over buildings in a single bound, I like to think that in death he flew out of that squad car on angels’ wings and into heaven,” he said.
Pastor Scott Bradley, who officiated at Sauter’s wedding in 2010 and served as his youth minister, said that after Sauter was hospitalized for a previous accident that occurred while on patrol, Sauter admitted he was worried he would die without having done enough for other people.
“I am a living testimony that James Sauter’s life meant something,” Bradley said, “that he lived with purpose and made a difference in the lives of others.”
Near the end of his eulogy, Bradley turned to Sauter’s casket and said goodbye.
“You have fought the good fight,” Bradley said. “You have finished the race. I love you, and I will see you soon.”
Grau spoke last. He called Sauter a “peaceful warrior” with a kind heart and a great soul. He talked about the award Sauter received while still a cadet for saving the life of a woman who had fallen off a motorcycle.
“As we remember the service of James Sauter, we remember that service comes with great sacrifice,” Grau said.
After the funeral ceremony, the Bagpipes and Drums of the Emerald Society Chicago Police Department played “Amazing Grace” outside as troopers led Sauter’s casket led out of church.
Before Sauter’s coffin was loaded back into the hearse, a state trooper opened the door of a state police sport utility vehicle that was parked near the church.
A voice rang through the sport utility vehicle’s police radio, calling for all units to take a moment of silence in honor of the fallen trooper.
“Trooper James Sauter, this is your final 10-42 call,” the voice said, referencing the radio code police use when signing off for duty. “Thank you for your service. May you rest in peace.”