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Remembering Tony Radulescu
A motorcade streamed up Inter-state 5 on Thursday, with hundreds of police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Washington State Patrol staff headed to Trooper Tony Radulescu’s memorial service in Kent.
The memory of Radulescu’s smile weighed dearly on the minds of the more than 1,000 law enforcement officers making the trip. And it also weighed lightly on breast pockets.
Many officers wore buttons emblazoned with Radulescu’s visage, complete with the toothy, happy-go-lucky smile the slain trooper was known for.
“You never saw Tony without his smile,” Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said at a candlelight vigil Monday night for Radulescu at the Christian Life Center in Port Orchard. Boyer was Radulescu’s commanding officer at the Washington State Patrol when he started in 1995.
“When I talk about smiles, Tony couldn’t help himself,” Boyer said. “He couldn’t not smile.”
And Gina Miller, Radulescu’s girlfriend, said no matter what the situation, he always treated people with respect.
“And for those of you who have been pulled over by Tony or been in the back of his car, he treated everybody with dignity and respect, and he treated people how he would want to be treated,” Miller said at Monday’s vigil that drew hundreds of people wanting to pay their respects.
Born in Romania in 1967, Radu-lescu immigrated to the United States with his father when he was 14. He grew up in New York, on Brooklyn’s Bushwick Avenue, with two brothers and a younger sister.
Even from a young age he was somebody to look up to, his younger brother Mario said at the vigil Monday night.
“He was my best friend,” he said. “I always looked up to him.”
After joining the Army and serving in the Gulf War, Radulescu began a decorated career for the Washington State Patrol, stationed in Bremerton. His heavy accent, his proficiency in different languages, including Romanian, Korean and Spanish, and his ever present smile left a lasting impression on his comrades throughout his 16 year career.
“After I first met him in the office, I turned to another person in the room and said, ‘what a nice young man,’” said Captain Bob Johnson, Radulescu’s District 8 Commander in Bremerton. “And then you heard of his incredible history and where he came from. He was the epitome of what a State Trooper was.”
A resident of Port Orchard, he attended Christian Life Center Church on Mitchell Road. So too did Romanian-born Viorel Mihai, who had heard for years about the Washington State Patrol Trooper with the big grin. But it wasn’t until Mihai saw the flashing lights of State patrol car 557 in his rearview mirror that the two first met.
“I was riding down the highway, but I wasn’t speeding.” Mihai joked at Monday’s vigil in a heavy Romanian accent. “When he came to my car he already knew me. We hugged each other. After that we became the best friends. We became like brothers.”
Mihai announced to the crowded sanctuary of the CLC that the fallen trooper would have taken solace in knowing that though Mihai and many lost a dear friend, gained were a thousand more through the outpouring of support and grief he and his family has seen from the community.
“Tony was proud to be an American,” he said. “I lost a great friend, but I gained 100,000 back.”
On Saturday, Radulescu’s 22-year-old son Erick -- in the army and currently serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord -- said he was trying to keep his emotions at bay to stay strong for his family, the Seattle Times reported. With tears in his eyes, he spoke lovingly of his hero.
“He was everything: He was a hero, he was the biggest role model in my life, he was really my best friend. I think he was the ‘go-to guy’ for everything I’ve ever needed.”
A beaming face pinned to her chest, Miller spoke last of the family members at the vigil. Since the day the two met at the Puyallup Fair, she said they were “true soul mates.” Gone now are the wheel chair races, the cain fights but she hoped people could pull out something positive from the tragedy, even though it might be hard to find.
“He loved all the people he touched whether he wrote you a ticket or not” she said.