MONCTON, N.B. — Hundreds of RCMP officers in red serge filed sombrely into a New Brunswick church to pay tribute to a Mountie killed last week when he stopped to help stranded motorists change a flat tire.
The regimental funeral for Const. Frank Deschenes of the Nova Scotia RCMP filled St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Moncton, which seats 800, and a large crowd gathered along the tree-lined street outside to pay their respects to the young officer.
I remember the day he showed me your ring. His eyes lit up and the smile that came across his face was incredible.Dave Connors, Deschenes' friend
Savannah Bennett, Deschenes' wife, bowed her head as she placed a rose on the casket, draped in a Canadian flag.
A heart-wrenching eulogy was delivered by Deschenes' friend, Dave Connors, who described the 35-year-old's excitement at getting married to the "woman of his dreams'' this summer.
"You were his world, his rock. You made him the happiest man when he got to make you his wife,'' Connors said to Bennett. "You were the most important person in the world to him and he'd do absolutely anything for you.''
"I remember the day he showed me your ring. His eyes lit up and the smile that came across his face was incredible.''
'Always the one to show up'
Connors, who called Deschenes "Frankie'' during the emotional eulogy, described his friend as a compassionate and thoughtful officer who went above and beyond the call of duty.
"Frank absolutely loved his job and it showed every time he put on his uniform,'' he said. "All Frankie wanted to do was make sure all his brothers and sisters were safe, make sure all members of any police force were safe, not just his RCMP family.
"Frank was always the one to show up ... just to make sure everybody was safe and checking to see how he can help,'' Connors said. "The next thing off he goes in his (police cruiser) looking for the next person who needs help.''
Deschenes was assisting two occupants of an SUV last week when a cargo van plowed into his cruiser near Memramcook, N.B.
In 2008, Deschenes was hailed as a hero when he used his cruiser to push a car off railroad tracks near Truro, N.S., out of the way of a speeding freight train, saving a young woman's life.
The officer — originally from northwest New Brunswick — was a former member of the force's famed Musical Ride.
The 12-year veteran of the RCMP was known as a dedicated officer who worked to educate the public about the need to slow down when driving past emergency vehicles.
The funeral started with a procession of uniformed officers on Assomption Boulevard, and a march to the gothic stone church on Botsford Street.
Books of condolence have been in place at RCMP detachments in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick over the past week and members of the force say they have been humbled by the outpouring of support.
In addition to hundreds of Mounties and officers from municipal police forces, a large contingent of members of the Defenders Motorcycle Club also attended the service.
Deschenes was an avid biker and a member of the club's Amherst chapter.
Pat Evans, a member of the motorcycle club's Halifax chapter, said there were members of the club from Ottawa, Halifax, Cape Breton, Truro and Amherst.
"He was one of our brothers and coming here was the right thing to do and be part of his celebration of life,'' Evans said.