FARMER CITY — Before he was an Illinois State Police trooper, Ryan Albin grew up near the small McLean County town of Bellflower.
“He loved growing up on a farm and in fact, some people called him ‘Farm Boy,’" said Pastor David Ashby, who officiated at the fallen trooper's funeral service Thursday morning at Blue Ridge High School in Farmer City.
“He liked being called ‘Farm Boy,’ having gone to school in Farmer City. His laughter and smile could brighten any room and was a testament to his faith, as were his work ethic and the many friends he made throughout his life.”
Albin was killed last week in a two-vehicle crash while on duty on Interstate 74 near Farmer City.
About 600 people attended the service, including Gov. Bruce Rauner and about 400 police officers from throughout the state. After the funeral, an estimated 500 police cars representing just about every state in the country slowly made its way through Farmer City, Mansfield and Bellflower before ending at Bellflower Township Cemetery, where Albin was buried.
There, a bagpiper played "Going Home" as the funeral procession arrived. Two firetruck ladders held a giant American flag that greeted vehicles in the long procession.
“He loved his children. He loved his family. He loved his friends,” Ashby said. “Ryan’s pride and joy was becoming a trooper and serving the public each day with his K-9 partner, Biko. Ryan will be sorely missed.”
Albin graduated from Blue Ridge in 1998 and also attended Eureka College. During Thursday’s ceremony, his football and basketball jerseys were featured in frames to the right of the flag-draped casket. His Illinois State Police uniform was in a frame to the left.
Wayne Boostrom, a family friend, said he met the Albins shortly after he moved to the Farmer City area 40 years ago.
“I was their pastor when Ryan Albin was born,” he said at the service. “He was a little guy with a grin and a smile and he was small and cuddly. Many of you may not think of him that way if you only knew him later in life.”
Speaking on behalf of the family, Ashby said all were “overwhelmed” with the support they've received from the law enforcement community and the public following Wednesday’s crash.
State Police Director Leo Schmitz told the family "we are here for you and will always be here for you."
“We are a true family,” Schmitz added. “On June 28, we lost a member of that family and Ryan will be missed, but he will always be with us. As we do in all instances like this, I went through his personnel file and was just amazed at all of the praise and honors he had received. I noticed one instance where the man who was arrested actually wrote to us and told us how much he appreciated Ryan’s professionalism and integrity during his arrest. Those of us in law enforcement know and understand things like that just don’t happen.”
Schmitz said he also was impressed with the way the Albin family handled the tragedy.
“We will support Ryan’s family as they go through this difficult journey,” he said. “We will always remember Ryan in everything we do. We will never forget Ryan’s commitment to what he did, what he did for his state and what he did for all of us. We know Ryan is looking over us right now, but he will always be in our hearts and in our memories.”
His name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall, said Schmitz.
“People will know that he served the community and our society with honor and bravery. They will know that he was the best of us. Ryan joins a long list of brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives of those in need.”
Schmitz said that since Albin’s death, he's received messages and phone calls from law enforcement officials across the nation.
“Many have never met Ryan, but they wanted to pay tribute to his dedication and sacrifice,” he said. “In this profession, we are a true family and we come together. They drop everything and respond. To the proud parents, Bob and Becky; the loving sisters, Raeanne and Rachelle; his 6-year-old daughter, Stella and 2-year-old son, Charlie, you have inherited a family in the Illinois State Police and law enforcement. We will always be there for you.”
Schmitz said that during the past week, he got to know Albin’s parents.
“I will tell you that I have never met two more wonderful and gracious people,” he said. “There is no doubt that Ryan is the man he was because of them.”
Albin was awarded 2015 ISP District 6 officer of the year and also earned numerous other department commendations and awards for his criminal interdiction work and DUI enforcement. He was a member of the National Criminal Enforcement Association, served as a juvenile officer and a Fraternal Order of Police trustee.
Few details of the accident have been released, though ISP has said Albin's squad car struck the rear of a commercial box truck. The accident remains under investigation.