PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Paying tribute to a fallen officer, family and friends of trooper Jonathan Leonard gathered in his memory seven years after he died in a crash.
A native of Pike County, he is remembered well there.
The community lit up the night in honor of the officer.
Family members say he was born to be a trooper.
"He was very passionate about his job. He loved it. He loved KSP, and he loved working with the public, helping, trying to make a difference, even a small difference. He tried," said Karen Leonard, Jonathan Leonard's mom.
Jonathan Leonard served more than 3 years with Kentucky State Police.
"He was very well respected and a very hard-working trooper. He was very committed to the community over here and in Pike County," said KSP Post 9 Captain Sean Welch.
On December 19th, 2006, the unthinkable happened.
Leonard died in a crash while responding to call on US 119 in Pike County.
"It was a loss that was felt all the way across our agency especially here at Post 9 in Pikeville," said Welch.
Thursday night, just like every December 19 since that day, dozens gathered remembering the man they say left a lasting impression on anyone he met.
"We love Jonathan but we were surprised that so many people cared about him. You know there's stories and stuff that people tell us. It helps keep his memory alive. It means the world to us," said Karen Leonard.
Flames flickered and lanterns floated to the heavens.
"It's very heartwarming to see the support for the family and the fact that Jonathan's service and who he was to all of us hasn't gone forgotten so long after the fact. He meant a great deal to us and still does," said Welch.
It is a vigil that allows Leonard's memory to continue burning in the minds of those who knew him.
Leonard was 28 years old when he died.
Before his death no troopers had died on duty in 18 years.