AMHERST — The first female New York trooper to die while on duty was remembered today for her grace, humor and professionalism as family, friends and law enforcement officers gathered for her funeral.
A long procession of police cruisers escorted the hearse carrying Jill Mattice to the Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church in Clarence, about 20 miles northwest of Buffalo. Pipers played and two long ranks of somber, gray-uniformed fellow troopers saluted as an honor guard wheeled in her flag-draped casket.
It took mourners almost a half hour to file into the church hall, where Gov. David Paterson said in his eulogy that children in the schools where Mattice was assigned as a resource officer “adored her because of her bubbly personality.”
Police say the 31-year-old trooper was driving a cruiser back to the Oneonta barracks from her shift at a central New York school on Wednesday when she apparently drifted into the oncoming lane and collided with a tractor-trailer. The accident remains under investigation.
Paterson said that while Mattice died in an accident that could have befallen anyone, she and other troopers stand willing “at a moment’s notice to put themselves in jeopardy to protect the people of our state.”
State police Sgt. Mark Barbera recalled being on the road with Mattice near Oneonta when they stopped a car and he was confronted by a belligerent, intoxicated driver he described as a “giant.”
Barbera said he was backing up and getting ready to defend himself when he felt a touch and realized Mattice had “come around to be by my side.”
The combative driver turned his attention to Mattice. Barbera said the man looked at her, said “You’re hot,” and let her run him through the battery of sobriety tests and questions without another problem.
Mattice was a Cheektowaga native and six-year veteran who had worked the past 2½ years in the Unadilla Valley Central and Franklin School Districts. She was married with no children.
Mattice “not only performed a service for the state police, but for our young people,” said state police Superintendent Harry Corbitt. “Those children will remember her all their lives.”
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: