Thousands of colleagues, friends and family members flooded a New Jersey church Monday for the funeral of a beloved police officer who was killed in a car crash on his way to work last week.
Summit officer Matthew Tarentino's two young sons stood hand in hand in the street with their mother, who is pregnant with the couple's third child, as uniformed officers unloaded the 29-year-old cop's casket from a hearse.
Somber bagpipes played as mourners filed into Immaculate Conception Church in Somerville for the funeral of Tarentino, who died Tuesday when 68-year-old Archibald McGlashan, of Pennsylvania, crossed the median into the eastbound lanes of Interstate 78 in Bernards Township, crashing into the officer's car and another vehicle. McGlashan died along with Tarentino; a third man was injured.
Tarentino was posthumously promoted to detective on Wednesday. A beloved fixture of his Summit community, Tarentino had been scheduled to speak at a fifth-grade DARE graduation ceremony the day he died. Many of the students who warmed to him over the years attended his funeral Monday.
Tarentino's wife, Vickie Tarentino, eulogized the man she called her and her sons' rock.
"While we are so sad knowing what they've lost and won't ever have back, they and this little baby are the luckiest for who they get to say is their father," she said.
Tarentino chaperoned middle school class trips to Washington, D.C., for years in addition to his work with DARE. Students he mentored and spoke to in the Summit community were among the hundreds who attended his funeral.
"He taught my law class, came by and taught us what it's like to be a police officer, the risks," said Alex Knight. "He was also my driving instructor so I got to know him on a personal level."
Fifth grader Pavel Yurkov said last week of the officer, "He was always so bright and happy and he wanted to answer each question. He was always really nice and really helpful. And he taught us a lot about making the right choice and resisting drugs."
Just last week, Tarentino received a community policing award from New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porino. Porino announced Monday that a $121,000 grant in Tarentino's honor -- the figure in honor of Tarentino's badge number, 121 -- will help carry on his legacy.
"This way, others can carry forward his vision and his passion in Matt's name," he said.