One week after her husband, Hancock County sheriff’s Deputy Luke Gross, was killed on-duty, Lauren Gross said the loss of her husband, who she described as kind and dutiful, was incalculable.
“Luke was my hero. He was larger than life,” Lauren Gross said. “Not just because of the badge he wore, but because of the man he was.”
About 1,000 officers, family members, friends and residents remembered Luke Gross as a humble man who loved life, service and his family in a funeral at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Thursday.
Gross, 44, was struck and killed while responding to a single-vehicle crash on Route 3 in Trenton in the early hours of Sept. 23. The deputy was cleaning up debris left on the road when he was struck from behind by a pickup truck.
Family members and law enforcement officers praised Gross’ character, especially his positive mindset and passion for his community. The death of officers on duty is rare in Maine, which can go years without a law enforcement death. Ceremonies for such officers often not only memorialize the fallen officer but celebrate the work of officers across the state and country.
Some of the most heartbreaking moments of the ceremony came when Luke Gross’ family spoke. Some audibly wept as his two children said what they’d miss about their father. Thirteen-year-old Ryan lamented that he wouldn’t get to do everything he had planned to do with his father but praised how Gross had taught him perseverance, positivity and to stand up for himself.
Alissa, 9, said that she would never forget the wonderful moments she had with her dad.
“You were always there for me when I needed you the most,” Alissa said. “I know you’ll follow me everywhere.”
Pastor Peter Remick, of the United Methodist Church in Bucksport, reflected on the “unbearable pain” of unexpected tragedy. Yet, he implored mourners not to let the moment bring them to cynicism:
“Death may have called us here today,” Remick said. “But it is life that holds us here.”
Remick spoke about Gross’ upbringing, largely in Bucksport, especially the adversity he faced at a young age. Those hardships drove him toward policing: it was a way he could help better the lives of others, Remick said.
Hundreds of officers attended the service from across Maine. That included one deputy from all 16 Maine counties and all six New England states, each of which was on hand to present their county and state flags in the opening of the ceremony.
The stage was decorated with the mementos of Gross’, including his sheriff’s uniform, boots and hat, along with his squad car, on which a bouquet of flowers was placed. There was also a sign for Camp Postcard, an Ellsworth camp where he volunteered as a counselor and a banner for drug education program DARE. Gross was a DARE officer for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.
Many noted Gross’ sense of humor and child-like love for life, including Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane. Kane, who worked with the fallen deputy for 18 years, said he had never once heard someone call Luke Gross rude or unkind.
“Luke could always be counted on to help his coworkers, no matter what the situation,” said Kane
Gross was the first officer from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department to die on-duty since two drowned in 1911. As Kane grew emotional, he said the loss will never be forgotten by the department. While he will be replaced, his call number will be retired.
“He lost his life doing what he loved and was trained to do,” Kane said. “None of us will ever be the same again.”
The most tragic and influential moment in Luke Gross’s life came when his mother, who had raised him as a single parent, died while he was in his early teens, his cousin Larry Clement said. After his mother was taken to the hospital, an Ellsworth police officer had waited with Gross at his home as family came so he wouldn’t be alone during that difficult time.
“Luke never forgot that feeling,” Clement said. “How an officer of the law had provided comfort and security.”
Gross’ funeral was the fourth held for a Maine officer who died in the line of duty in a decade. The last came after Detective Ben Campbell of Maine State Police was struck by a tire that came off a passing logging truck while helping a motorist whose car had slid off the road in April 2019. About 3,000 attended Campbell’s funeral in Portland the following week.
Gov. Janet Mills attended the memorial though she did not speak. She could be seen sitting in the upper rows wearing a face mask. Seated with her were Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso and Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-York.