Noah Emerick was only 3 1/2 months old when his father, Terry, was killed in the line of duty. But, as state Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville) pointed out on Saturday, Noah learned how many other people loved and respected his father.
Watson was among the speakers at a ceremony held at Indian Springs Golf Club to dedicate a section of Ill. Route 185 between Vandalia and Hillsboro as the Terry J. Emerick Memorial Highway.
Emerick, a Vandalia native and the son of Frank and Betty Emerick, was 29 years old and serving as an Illinois Commerce Commission police officer when he sustained fatal injuries while making a traffic stop on Interstate 70 near Vandalia on May 25, 1994.
Montgomery County Clerk & Recorder Sandy Leitheiser came up with the idea of seeking a highway designation in Emerick’s honor, and teamed up with Associate Judge Jim Roberts in making that a reality. Leitheiser and Roberts worked through state Rep. Gary Hannig (D-Gillespie) and state Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville).
Emerick joined the ICC police force after stints with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsboro Police Department.
Speaking to Noah Emerick, Watson said, “You’ve got to know the respect that people had for your father by what’s going on here today.
“You didn’t know your father, unfortunately, but you’ve got to know now, you’ve got to have the feeling that he was well-respected,” Watson said.
One of Emerick’s former bosses, retired Hillsboro police chief John Downs, said, “Terry is a young man that I will always remember.
“We had talked many times about his wants, and believe me, I hated to see him leave. You always knew that if you were working with Terry, you were going to have a pretty good laugh somewhere during the day.
“He was always good for a laugh, but he was also an outstanding police officer,” said Downs.
He said that after leaving the Hillsboro department, Emerick often stopped by for lunch with him. The two had lunch together just a few hours before Emerick was killed in the line of duty.
More than 200 people were on hand for Saturday’s dedication ceremony, and Roberts said that spoke of Emerick’s impact on others.
“What a tribute to his memory and his family,” Roberts said.
Hannig said, “It seems to me that it’s very fitting that we should gather today to honor someone who dedicated a part of his public life to making the highways of our state a safe place.
“It’s fitting that we should name a highway after him, so that every day as people travel that highway, that the memory of Terry will still be here with us,” he said.
Demuzio described Emerick “as an officer who gave his life … he served every day doing what he wanted to do, and that was to serve the people. He gave the last full measure of his life to serve us.
“Let us think, as we drive that highway, as we think about Terry, about all of those times that we could be so privileged to have known him,” she said.
ICC Chief Odie Carpenter, in presenting to Emerick’s wife, Connie, and son, Noah, with a plaque that recognizes his service to the agency, said that he and Emerick were friends.
“He was just a great officer to work with – very intelligent, energetic and fun-loving, and I have embraced those memories,” Carpenter said.
Connie Emerick said, “I believe in my heart today that Terry is looking down at us from heaven and wondering what all of the fuss is about.
“I’m sure he would be humbled, seeing all of his family and friends and co-workers and fellow Masons,” she said.
Connie said that Terry didn’t really impress her when the two first met, but that she quickly came to see him as “loving, honest, caring and protective, with a great sense of humor.
“He had worked hard to accomplish the goals he had set for himself, and was just beginning to reap the rewards,” she said.
“He was a great police officer, and he took pride in the way he looked in his uniform, as well as the way he conducted himself as he carried out his duties of serving and protecting the citizens of Illinois,” Connie said.
It’s difficult to understand how police officers can enjoy their job, based on the challenges they face every day, she said, “But only by loving Terry and listening to his stories about work could I understand how he would never have been happy doing anything else.
“The desire to help those he served and protected remained with him long after he removed his uniform and badge,” Connie said.
She recalled the time that she and Terry came upon an accident on I-70, and how her husband rushed to help another man administer CPR to a person injured in the wreck. As they left the scene, Connie asked him if the man would live.
Terry told her that the man had died prior to them coming up on the wreck, but that he felt it necessary to try to revive the injured person.
“I could see the love that Terry had for his fellow man as I watched him try to breathe life back into a stranger that day,” Connie said.
“We lost so much on Wednesday, May 25, 1994, but we know what heaven gained that day.
“As you travel (on this highway), know that you have an angel watching over you from above,” she said.