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Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis was remembered at his funeral Thursday as a man who loved life and liked to make people laugh.
In his eulogy for the young officer, who was murdered early Saturday morning, Police Chief Rick McCubbin told funny stories about Ellis, who would dress up in ridiculous costumes at office parties and play pranks on his fellow officers.
One time, for example, McCubbin had to move a DARE officer out of his office, and Ellis took it upon himself to find the poor guy other space.
“He decorated a stall in the men’s room … and put his name on the door,” the chief said, as the auditorium at Parkway Baptist Church filled with laughter.
Another time, while shopping for cop clothes, McCubbin said, Ellis put on a skin-tight, under-armor suit.
“He decided everyone in the store should see him modeling that,” he recalled.
Ellis was “a jokester,” McCubbin said, but he also was a tough officer. “Like most cops, when you needed a commanding presence, he was there.”
“The Jason we knew was always the first one in, and usually the last one out,” McCubbin said.
Ellis was dedicated to his job, he said, and always had a positive attitude.
He remembered how Ellis would give him a grin and a thumbs up, and say, “It’s good. It’s good. You’re my chief.”
“I am your chief, Jason, but you’re our hero,” he said. “And you must know, your chief will not stand down.”
“Jason, my friend, rest easy. We’ve got it from here,” he concluded.
McCubbin was the first officer to speak at the funeral.
Officer Will Strunk recited “The Policeman’s Prayer.”
Brandon Young, Ellis’ brother-in-law, said that when he started dating the officer’s younger sister, Ellis told him because he had served in Iraq, he would allow it, but he told him in a stern way “not to hurt her.”
Young said Ellis was head over heels in love with his wife, Amy, and their boys, Hunter, 7, and Parker, 6, were the joy of his life.
“He served his community with great dignity and respect,” Young said.
The Rev. Brent Snook, pastor of First Baptist Church of Glen Este in the Cincinnati area, knew Ellis as a boy and later as a young man.
He remembered how Ellis, who was a standout baseball player in the minor leagues, called him for advice on whether he should end his career because Amy was pregnant with Hunter, and he wanted to be with her more. He made the right decision in giving up his life on the road for his family, Snook said, and that led to him pursuing his other dream — being a police officer.
He and Amy met when they were students at what is now the University of the Cumberlands, where Ellis set records that still haven’t been broken.
Snook also called Ellis a hero.
“A hero makes a deliberate choice to lay down his life in service long before he may ever be called to lay down his life in sacrifice,” he said.
Like Jesus, he said, Ellis gave his life both in service and in sacrifice.
“I can’t tell you how heavy my heart is over all this, but I can tell you how thrilled I am that when Jason was a 9-year-old boy, he opened his heart to knowing he was a sinner like all of us. With childlike faith, he received Jesus into his life. Because of that, he knew that whenever he died, however that might be, he was a child of God,” Snook said.
He knew he would live again, he explained.
Richard Carwile, the Ellis family’s pastor at Bloomfield Baptist Church, echoed that theme.
“We’ll see him again some day,” he said.
Ellis’s funeral lasted about two hours, but because of the traffic from the church to the High View Cemetery in Chaplin, it was almost six hours from the opening prayers to the “last call” at 4:46.
The funeral was seven years to the day after Ellis started working for the Bardstown Police Department.
It’s estimated that 1,100 people attended the funeral in the church’s sanctuary, and 700 more watched it on a big screen in the gym. Hundreds more lined the motorcade route that stretched along U.S. 62 into the heart of Bardstown, and then along Bloomfield Road to Chaplin.
The motorcade route also was lined with more than 2,300 American flags donated by an Illinois man, Larry Eckhardt, and placed by local volunteers.
After the service, and before the burial, people talked about what Ellis had meant to his community and how his death had affected Nelson County and people across the country.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, said he had never seen such an outpouring of support in a community for one of its own.
“I thought it was important for me to be here to represent the office and show my respects to his family,” he added.
Allison Hahn, of Bardstown, was one of those who wasn’t at the church, but she waited for the funeral procession on U.S. 62.
She said she didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Ellis, but her son did, through school and Little League baseball.
One recent evening, she said, her son had a very good ball game, and when she asked him how he did so well, he said, “Mom, every time I went to bat, I did it for Officer Ellis.”
Hahn said the feelings she has about the pride her community has shown for Jason Ellis goes “beyond words.”
“It’s been overwhelming,” she said.
Brad Carrico, a Springfield police officer, said Ellis also coached his wife Lauren’s little brother, and he met Ellis a few times.
“He was a good guy,” he said. “He just had a great attitude.”
At the High View Cemetery, people talked about Ellis while they waited for the long procession to make its way slowly to Chaplin.
Patty Cull, mother of Bardstown Police Officer Robin Cull, said the Ellises are their neighbors.
“What I’ll remember most is his infectious smile,” she said. “He was a committed father and neighbor.”
Melvin Cull, Robin’s father, said Amy and Jason were caring people.
Howard Coulter, of Bardstown, formerly of Chaplin, said, “It’s a tragic shame when a police officer loses his life like that.”
Beverly Coulter said seeing the American flags stretching for miles “gave me cold chills.” She said it made her want to cry.
The procession began arriving in Chaplin around 3 p.m.
Hundreds upon hundreds of police officers from Kentucky and surrounding states — including Ellis’ native state of Ohio — took part in the procession to pay their final respects to Ellis.
Ellis was laid to rest in High View Cemetery. The lid to his vault featured three photos of the officer. On the bottom it reads: “Jason Scott Ellis. September 22nd, 1979 – May 25th, 2013.”
Ellis’ headshot from the Bardstown Police Department is located in the middle. On the left end, there is a photo of him looking over his two sons. On the opposite side, there is a photo of Ellis and his beloved K-9, Figo. The Bardstown Police Department insignia is located at the top corners.
When the hearse arrived at the cemetery, Ellis’ casket was placed in a horse-drawn caisson and transported to his final burial site.
A riderless horse accompanied the procession.
A local honor guard performed a 21-gun salute.
About 30 bagpipers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana, and officers from Louisville, Cincinnati and Gary, Ind., performed during the processional and the ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, a lone piper performed “Going Home” as Nelson County radio dispatch called Ellis’ radio signal three final times.