State trooper remembered as ‘outstanding human being’
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org
Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau remembered fallen Trooper James Sauter during Tuesday’s funeral service as a man who had a lasting impact on everyone who knew him.
“His gentle and fun loving spirit will always be with us,” Grau said. “Trooper Jim Sauter, your watch has ended.”
Grau was one of many family, friends, well-wishers and emergency responders who packed Moraine Valley Baptist Church in Palos Heights for Sauter’s funeral. His casket was draped in an American flag.
Sauter, 28, died Thursday after a semi truck hit his police cruiser on the Tri-State Tollway in Northbrook.
Sauter, who is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and other family, had been a trooper for nearly five years. Thousands of police and other first responders showed up at the funeral, packing the church parking lot as well as nearby residential streets and parking lots of adjacent busineses.
Matt Sauter, James’ younger brother and a student at Richards High School, opted out of a tie and wore a Superman shirt in honor of his brother. He also had all of the state troopers, dressed in their formal green suitcoats, stand up so he could thank them.
He remembered James being there to set him straight if he was acting like a bad son or a brother.
“He always tried being my second father,” Matt said. “I’m blessed with a gift many don’t have. A gift of a big brother.”
The service was alternately solemn and light-hearted. Sauter’s aunt, Patti Duffin, remembered how she once put James in charge of the other children for a round of trick or treating.
Since the children were young, she made James promise to only hit up six houses on the block. But to get more candy, James had all the kids switch up costumes and hit up the same houses.
“He must have had a feminine side, because he took the outfit of Wonder Woman,” Duffin said.
Tony Ferraro, Sauter’s brother-in-law, noted the similarities between Sauter and Superman, starting with their height and muscles.
“Though he may not have been able to leap over buildings in a single bound, I like to think that in death he flew out of that squad car on angels’ wings and into Heaven,” he said.
Pastor Scott Bradley, who officiated at Sauter’s wedding and served as his youth minister, quipped that as a teenager, Sauter both inspired him as a pastor and caused him to lose his hair and go gray. He said that after Sauter was hospitalized for a prior accident that occurred while on patrol, Sauter admitted he was worried he would die without having done enough for other people.
“I am a living testimony that James Sauter’s life meant something,” Bradley said. “That he lived with purpose and made a difference in the lives of others.”
Near the end of his eulogy, Bradley turned to Sauter’s casket and said goodbye.
“You have fought the good fight,” Bradley said. “You have finished the race. I love you, and I will see you soon.”
Earlier, Trooper Jason Bradley, who knew Sauter for three years, said Sauter had a “passion for helping people.”
“Moreso than an outstanding trooper, he’s an outstanding human being,” Bradley said.