Hundreds of family members, friends and fellow officers gathered on a rainy Wednesday morning inside a church in Liberty to remember Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Frederick F. Guthrie Jr., who along with his patrol dog, was swept away by floodwaters in August.
They were there to remember him as a husband, father, uncle, fellow law enforcement officer and decorated hero.
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“Fred is gone, but he will never be forgotten,” said Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Guthrie and his patrol dog, Reed, were working near Big Lake in Holt County on Aug. 1 when they vanished. Reed’s body was found the next day about 100 yards from Guthrie’s patrol truck and boat.
“It has been a long couple months. We still haven’t located him and we are going to continue to search for him,” Stosberg said. “This service will certainly be one to celebrate his life and all the great things he has done.”
The parking lot of the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church revealed that Guthrie’s funeral wasn’t a typical service. Law enforcement officers, including members of 11 state policing agencies in the Midwest, streamed into the church. A large American flag was suspended by fire trucks from the Kansas City Fire Department and Southern Platte Fire Protection District.
A few officers also carried baskets filled with yellow tennis balls into the church.
Guthrie had used tennis balls to train Reed.
The 46-year-old Guthrie was a combined 17-year veteran of the former Missouri State Water Patrol and Missouri Highway Patrol. Guthrie, who was assigned to the Highway Patrol’s water division, most recently served in Troop A in Platte County. He was awarded a state Medal of Valor for his 2007 rescue of a woman who was clinging to a buoy in Smithville Lake after being thrown from her boat in a heavy thunderstorm.
He was the 30th member of the Highway Patrol to die in the line of duty.
“We are gathered to remember and to honor a man who was a loving husband, a father, a brother and a son,” said Gov. Jay Nixon. “And a dedicated and a courageous member of Missouri’s law enforcement family.”
Nixon recalled meeting Guthrie about 11/2 years ago when they toured the state talking about the merger of the water and highway patrols.
“I wanted the people of Missouri to hear about and to see some of men and women from both agencies who had distinguished themselves above and beyond the call of duty and protected the citizens of our great state,” he said. “In short, we wanted the people of Missouri to meet some of the heroes out there on our highways and waterways.”
Guthrie’s name was the first one brought to Nixon because of the courage he showed in rescuing the woman on Smithville Lake.
“Fred exemplified all that’s courageous and honorable about those who proudly serve in the Water Patrol and the Highway Patrol,” Nixon said.
Retired Capt. Bill Cox recalled that Guthrie was a “go to” officer — highly motivated and conscientious. His latest passion was as a K-9 officer. Cox said that Guthrie and Reed developed a true bonding that made them an outstanding K-9 team.
“We all lost a friend — a true friend,” Cox said. “One of the best anyone could have.”
After the service, many of the law enforcement officers joined a procession that traveled nearly 80 miles to the Knob Noster Cemetery in Knob Noster. The procession, led by police motorcycles with emergency lights flashing, included Guthrie’s truck and boat.
He is survived by his wife, three children and his parents.