FOX LAKE – Joseph Gliniewicz was somebody to everyone, his wife told the hundreds gathered at Lakefront Park on Wednesday night to honor the Fox Lake police lieutenant who was killed on the job the day before.
“Joe was my best friend, my world, my hero, the love of my life for the last 26 and a half years,” said Mel Gliniewicz, surrounded by her four sons.
“He was my rock as much as I was his rock. Every night he came home to me. He was the most wonderful, caring and loving father to our boys. My world got a little bit smaller with his passing.”
The candlelight vigil was marked with bittersweet memories – how his handshake made people feel safe, the reoccurring jokes he shared with Fox Lake Mayor Donny Schmit over whether Schmit could borrow his gun, and the work he did training high school students interested in law enforcement through Explorer Post 300.
Schmit asked the crowd to shout together, "We love you, Joe," which spurred the spontaneous chanting of "G.I. Joe," Gliniewicz's nickname at the Fox Lake Police Department and in the community.
Recently retired Fox Lake Police Chief Michael Behan said he and Gliniewicz wrote poems for each of the last two police chiefs when they died, and Gliniewicz promised Behan that he would do it for him and Behan would do it for Gliniewicz.
"His badge was more than a shining pin; it was honesty, sacrifice growing within," Behan recited. "He gave with his time, his love and his life."
Friends and family exchanged hugs and tears after the Grant Community High School choir sang "Amazing Grace," and the black and blue balloons were released into the air over the Chain O’Lakes.
The event was “very hard and emotional,” said Tracy Thompson of McHenry, a friend from the boating community who Gliniewicz mentored when she went through her criminal justice program.
“He was a great, outstanding guy,” she said. “He never had anything bad to say.”
He was apt to do anything if asked, even wear a tutu to raise money on behalf of a friend with thyroid cancer, Thompson said.
The turnout was more than just those that knew Gliniewicz.
Dawn and Bill Grifo brought their two boys, 8 and 9 years old, and drove to the event from their home in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to pay their respects.
“I can’t imagine what the family is going through,” Dawn Grifo said, recalling the call she got when her husband was injured on the job as a Waukegan police officer, chasing after somebody.
“It was a nightmare,” she said.
Her boys were giving out treat packages to any police officer they saw, a gesture echoed by the blue shirts, the signs of support and the handshakes and the thank-yous that filled the crowd.
"To everyone out there who puts their life on the line every day, you are respected," said Denny Kamps with American Legion Post 703 in Fox Lake, of which Gliniewicz was a member. "There's nobody better than you."
Several state lawmakers also eulogized Gliniewicz on the floor of the Illinois House as they wrapped up session Wednesday evening.
An emotional state Rep. John Anthony, who is a police officer, told lawmakers the nation has to say "enough is enough" given the recent string of officers killed in the line of duty.
“Police lives matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. How about we simply state, 'Lives matter'? Simple as that," said Anthony, R-Morris.