OGDEN -- Behind the podium, Shannon Hemmelgarn stood, as hundreds of mourners looked on, with what she called an overwhelming sense of pride.
The crowd had gathered Monday at the Dee Events Center for the funeral of her brother, Division of Wildlife Resources Sgt. Keith Fullenkamp. Last week, Fullenkamp, 37, died in a car accident in Wyoming on his way home from an elk hunting trip in Colorado.
Hemmelgarn delivered Fullenkamp's eulogy in the form of a letter to his 1-year-old son, Jake. Though Jake will grow up without his father, Hemmelgarn said, the family's mission from then on would be to ensure he knows who his father was.
By the time Hemmelgarn finished speaking, even those in attendance who had never met Fullenkamp felt like they knew him, too.
She told of Fullenkamp's childhood, in Ohio, and how as a boy he loved to play in the woods and wrestle with his sisters. She told of how one Sunday, he'd taught her all the curse words he knew, rattling them off one by one. She told of how he'd love to dance to "terrible Bee Gees songs," warning Jake that one day he would too: "It's in your blood."
Hemmelgarn spoke also of the man Fullenkamp turned into, the one many in attendance had gotten to know since he began working for DWR. When Fullenkamp left home and moved to Utah to become a wildlife officer, his family worried he might slip away from his Catholic upbringing.
It was only later, she said, that they realized how wrong they'd been.
In the Utah mountains, under purple sunsets, Hemmelgarn said, he was "closer to God than he ever could have been in Ohio."
A lifelong outdoorsman, Fullenkamp relished every chance he got to spend in the wilderness, especially among fellow hunters.
"He always told his family he couldn't believe he got paid to do his job," Hemmelgarn said. "He would have done it for food money."
He also loved teaching kids about wildlife and hunting. He was instrumental in starting an annual youth waterfowl fair, whose first-year attendance was sparse but swelled this year to around 600 children and parents.
Said Phil Douglass, DWR Northern Region conservation outreach manager, who had worked closely with Fullenkamp: "I once heard the measure of a man's life is if he's loved by kids and respected by professionals. Keith was both."
DWR Capt. Rick Olson, who hired Fullenkamp in 2005, also spoke and shared stories of Fullenkamp. He revealed that Fullenkamp had once been given the nickname "Badges," for his propensity to lose his badge.
What stood out about Fullenkamp, Olson said, was his devotion to his job.
"When you hire, you try to find someone with passion like Keith had," he said.
When the speakers had concluded, and the ceremony was nearing its finish, the DWR Honor Guard folded the American flag that had been placed on Fullencamp's casket and gave it to his widow, Tanna. Then, the Honor Guard lifted the casket and walked it to the hearse, as music played softly in the background and law enforcement officers in attendance saluted.
Near the end of the eulogy, Hemmelgarn explained that some people live life afraid to take risks, unwilling to sacrifice the sense of comfort the familiar provides. Her brother, who left everything in Ohio for Utah and the chance to chase his dream, was not one of those people.
"He may have lived a short life," she said, "but it was a full life."
Contact reporter Bubba Brown at 801-625-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BubbaBrownSE.