Jul. 22—SOUTH WINDSOR — Fellow police officers gathered with friends and family at the funeral for Officer Benjamin C. Lovett Wednesday afternoon to honor his short, but impactful life.
The service at South Windsor High School included proceedings fit for a celebrated police officer, including a final radio call and salute from members of the South Windsor Police Department.
Lovett, 25, a patrol officer who had been hired by the South Windsor department in 2018, had also been assigned to the East Central Narcotics Task Force, a regional group comprised of officers from Glastonbury, Manchester, South Windsor and Vernon.
He died July 13 after succumbing to injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident last month while off duty.
Cpl. Joseph Futtner, the South Windsor officer assigned to the task force before Lovett, said from the moment they first worked together on a nightlong observation ride, he knew Lovett would be his replacement, staying attentive long after other officers' eyes would have glazed over.
"He not only paid attention all night, but he asked a lot of questions," Futtner told the crowd of mourners.
Many of the other speakers at the funeral also made sure to mention Lovett's unwavering commitment to everything he did.
"You knew that from the moment you met him," Haley Mistretta, cousin and childhood friend, said.
Mistretta said that Lovett was adamant about working hard and saving money from early childhood and tried to instill those values into everyone around him — although the latter may not have rubbed off on her, she admitted.
"He always left you wanting to be the best version of yourself," she said.
Close friend Patrick McPadden said Lovett was a man of determination and achievement, who was happy in his life and lived it to the fullest.
"He truly earned and deserves all of this. I'm not sure he would want to be the center of attention, but he would be humbled," said McPadden, who wrote a goodbye letter to his friend that ended with an uplifting call to action.
"We will not live in the past, we will live the best possible life we can in honor of you, because that's what you'd want," he said.
Another friend, Callie Simler, said Lovett was always a role model to her, and he encouraged, supported and motivated everyone around him. She said most could only dream about being half the man Lovett was.
"If there's anything that should be learned today, it's that no day should be wasted," Simler said.
Chaplain Doug Rowse, pastor of the New River Community Church in South Windsor, said Lovett always made excellent choices throughout his life and thanked his parents, Rob and Diane Lovett, for raising him well.
"You raised a good boy, you raised a great young man, and you have a lot to be proud of in Benny," Rowse said.
South Windsor Police Chief Kristian Lindstrom said that Lovett applied to be a police officer when he was only 21, and while he didn't have the usual work-related experience, he soon proved that he had skills and confidence beyond his age and resume.
"He quickly became a go-to person in the department," Lindstrom said.
Vernon Police Detective Cody Flanigan, who worked with Lovett on the task force, read a story from a compilation Lovett wrote in the seventh grade titled, "The Big Book of Ben's Bangin' Life," noting how little he changed from his formative years to the man he had become.
"There's a couple things we can all take away from seventh-grade Ben," Flanigan said — he always knew what he wanted in life, surrounded himself with others that bettered him, and never took life too seriously.
"Rest in peace brother; I'll see you on the other side," Flanigan said.
Dawn and Mark Mistretta, Lovett's aunt and uncle, said the outpouring of guests and gifts in their nephew's honor gave the family comfort.
"It goes to show what a great man Benny really was," Mark Mistretta said.
Dawn Mistretta said that she wished she had spent more time getting to know the adult man her nephew had become, as she had always intended to, but assumed she had more time.
"I took it for granted that I'd see him at holidays and family events, and I regret that we didn't have those more in-depth conversations," Dawn said.
Dawn said most of her memories of Lovett were of him as a child at her house, helping out with chores without being asked and spending quality time with his friends and family.
"If I was to describe Ben at a young age, I would say he was a good friend," Dawn said.
South Windsor Police Sgt. Michael Prescher said Lovett was simply great at what he did. He shared a story about a stolen vehicle case that most other officers would have given up on, but Lovett pushed through and nabbed the culprit through very thorough investigation and sheer determination.
"Ben was a future leader of this department and an absolute rock star," Prescher said.
Vernon Police Sgt. Shawn Krom, East Central Narcotics Task Force supervisor, echoed those sentiments, saying there were many parallels between Lovett's work for the South Windsor department and on the task force.
Lovett always showed selflessness and humility and, even if he was never good at showing it, cared deeply for his fellow officers, Krom said.
"He was truly the glue that held us together, words cannot do justice to explain what Ben Lovett means to me or our unit. We are all forever grateful," Krom said.