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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Law enforcement officers risk their lives each day not in disregard of their families and friends, but because of them.
That was the message from Stephan Bayens, commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, at the funeral Wednesday of Iowa State Patrol Trooper Ted Benda, who died Oct. 20 after crashing his patrol car while rushing to assist with a call in Clayton County.
“Today, I stand before you as a cop’s kid,“ Bayens told an audience of hundreds of troopers, deputies, police and other law enforcement agents who joined Benda’s family and friends in the Waukon High School gym for a funeral service. ”I may have more in common with his daughters than I do with the uniforms in here today.“
Bayens told the story of wondering why his dad entered a burning building in 1975, risking abandoning his wife and young son. Bayens later read a newspaper story about the fire where a reporter had asked Bayens’ dad why he had run into the blaze.
“His response was two words: ‘A boy,’” Bayens said about the child his father went in to save. “That’s the heart of law enforcement. As I’ve gotten to know Ted through his friends and family, the words that go through my mind time and time again (are) sacrificial love.”
Watch the livestream of Benda’s funeral:
Waukon, where Benda was raised and from where he graduated high school in 2002, showed its love for its hometown hero with flags lining the streets and signs posted in business windows. Some held signs with “313,” Benda’s State Patrol call sign. Flags across the state were flown at half-staff.
In addition to the packed gymnasium, more than 500 people watched a livestream of the service recorded by KCRG-TV.
Benda, 37, leaves behind his wife, Holly, and four daughters, Madilyn, 11; Avery, 8; Vivyan, 3; and Sylvia, just three weeks old.
A video shown at the funeral showed Benda with his girls: giving one a bath, picking out a Christmas tree, opening gifts, putting in a ponytail, roller-skating, shucking corn and holding a baby in a hospital, looking tired but happy. The Michael Bolton song “Fathers & Daughters” played, telling audience members “fathers and daughters never say goodbye.”
Two photos showed Benda with game he hunted, sometimes with his girls.
“After his family and work, Ted loved the outdoors,” his obituary said.
“He was an avid hunter and fisherman, always looking for an opportunity to go out, whether it was bow or shotgun season or looking for deer, turkey, pheasants, and mushrooms. After his daughters grew older, Ted took them with him and taught them everything they would need to know.”
Benda, who lived in rural Decorah, was assisting the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office with a call for service about 11:30 p.m. Oct. 14 when he was involved in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 51, about 6 miles north of Postville, the State Patrol reported Oct. 15.
He was airlifted to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, Wis., where he was in critical condition for several days before dying. Benda donated his organs and tissue, helping others prolong their lives, Bayens said.
State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said Oct. 15 he does not know how the crash occurred, but Benda was driving at high speed to respond to the call. Benda had not yet arrived at the call site when the crash happened, and Dinkla believes a passerby called 911. The crash is under investigation.
Benda joined the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in 2005, assigned to the Special Enforcement Operations Bureau in Marquette. He transferred to the State Patrol in 2016, initially assigned to District 8 in Mason City but most recently working out of the District 10 office in Oelwein.
Benda isn’t the first Iowa trooper to die in the line of duty this year. Sgt. Jim Smith was fatally shot in an April 9 standoff in Grundy County. Michael Thomas Lang has been charged with first-degree murder in that case and is scheduled for trial in June.
“It’s been a very difficult time losing two troopers here in this past seven months, with Jim Smith and Trooper Ted Benda,” Iowa State Patrol Col. Nathan Fulk said before the funeral. “The way we get through this is the support of the community and leaning on each other during this tragic time.”
The service ended with a simulated dispatch call to 313, with the tones that would summon a trooper to action. “Trooper Ted Benda went 1042 for the last time,” the voice said, the dispatch code for an officer ending a shift.
Following the service, Benda was buried in a private service at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Waukon. In lieu of flowers, plants or gifts, memorials can be directed to the Ted Benda memorial fund set up at FreedomBank in Waukon. The bank’s phone number is (563) 568-3417.
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Rebecca F. Miller of The Gazette contributed to this report.