The funeral for South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Keith Rebman Jr. began promptly at 2 p.m. Sunday. Hundreds of people sat in Founder's Memorial Amphitorium at Bob Jones University as the lights dimmed and a video began to play.
A projection screen at the front of the amphitorium lit up with a photo of Rebman as a kid, and a slideshow followed with images spanning the entirety of his life: He smiled while holding up a fish he had caught, beamed as he held his wife on their wedding day, laughed as he hugged his daughter, grinned as he played in the sand with his kids.
In every photo, one thing remained the same — Rebman's contagious smile.
"Trooper Rebman was always smiling," said Col. Chris Williamson, of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. "The loss of this young man cuts especially deep."
Rebman, 31, was killed in a line-of-duty wreck on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Rebman's stationary patrol car was struck from behind by a pickup truck at 12:23 a.m. Tuesday in the emergency lane on Interstate 385 in Greenville County, authorities said.
Rebman, who lived in Taylors, died of blunt force trauma at 2:25 p.m. Tuesday, the Greenville County Coroner's Office said. The manner of death was accident, Coroner Parks Evans said.
Hundreds attended the funeral service in Greenville on Sunday afternoon. Pastor Dave Smith, of Morningside Baptist Church, welcomed everyone and thanked law enforcement officers for their attendance on the family's behalf.
He asked attendees to nod their heads in prayer, and thanked God for all that Keith gave to his friends, family and community.
"Lord, we thank you for giving us Keith," Dave Smith said. "We miss his smile and his laugh and his hugs. We need your comfort today. ... We pray for Michelle, that she will feel your presence and your love, and that she will not feel alone."
Leroy Smith, director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, spoke about the quality of Rebman's character. His steadfast work ethic, his passion for his faith and his selfless attitude made Rebman an exceptional trooper, Leroy Smith said.
"I offer the department's most heartfelt condolences for the loss of your husband," Leroy Smith said. "As a family, you have shown remarkable strength and dignity in the face of overwhelming tragedy."
To the hundreds of state troopers and law enforcement officials who attended in uniform, Leroy Smith offered his understanding.
"Law enforcement officers are taught to be strong, but today isn’t about that," Smith said. "You are also human and this tragedy hurts. Your grief today is undeniable and very real."
In lieu of flowers, donations are being coordinated by the nonprofit organization Heroes in Blue through a GoFundMe page. The page, which was set up only four days ago, has already raised more than $42,000 by more than 550 people.
Trooper Rebman was a new trooper with the Highway Patrol, having graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in September 2016, Leroy Smith said. Prior to that, he worked as a dispatcher with the Highway Patrol for four years.
He was an avid outdoorsman and loved to spend his free time hunting and fishing, Smith said. He is survived by his wife, Michelle, and three young daughters, Olivia, Charlee and Kennedy.
"He had a passion for his faith, his family and his friends," Leroy Smith said. "He had a kind and sensitive heart and loved giving to others — almost to a fault. ... His death does not erase the legacy of selfless service he left behind."
Near the end of the service, Morningside Senior Pastor Josh Crockett stepped up on stage and read a letter the family had written for Keith.
“Hey Keith,” the letter began. “Everyone who knew you has a story of the care and kindness you showed them. … Thank you for caring for us. And don’t you worry about your girls — we will take care of them. You will forever live in our hearts.”
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