The man at the podium turned to the two young boys sitting in the front row of the church.
“As you grow older, know this,” Cypress Mayor Paulo Morales told Liam Ward, 5, and his brother Anderson, 2.
“Your father was the finest example…”
For several seconds, Morales had to compose himself before he continued to speak to the throng gathered at Seacoast Grace Church on Thursday morning.
“Your father was the finest example of a gentleman, and the finest example of what it is to be a police officer.”
Loved ones, friends and law enforcement officers from scores of agencies assembled to celebrate the life of Cypress PD Officer Matt Ward, who was killed in an auto accident while off duty early this month.
He was 33.
In addition to his young sons, Ward leaves behind a wife, Allison, and several other relatives.
A Cypress PD veteran of 9½ years known for his fierce work ethic, his commitment to the community and his engaging smile and sense of humor — as well as his red buzz-cut (he proudly referred to himself as a “Ginger”) — Ward was driving Liam to a Boy Scouts event when tragedy struck shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8.
Another driver lost control of his vehicle near the border of Huntington Beach and Westminster and collided with a second vehicle. That second car flipped and hit Ward’s truck, sending it crashing into the center divider.
Ward, who was wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene.
His son, who was in a car seat, escaped with minor injuries.
“Today we come together not to find answers, but comfort,” Pastor Doyle Surratt said.
Surratt posed the excruciatingly difficult question on everyone’s minds:
How do we move forward?
Before the hour-long memorial service, which was followed by interment at Forest Lawn Memorial in Cypress, country music played while a slideshow of Ward’s life unspooled on two large screens.
In one picture, Ward beamed as he rested a hand on his pregnant wife’s belly.
Matthew Edward Ward was born in Long Beach and grew up in Seal Beach. His younger brother also went into law enforcement with the Tustin Police Department.
The TPD had several representatives at Matt’s memorial service, including Chief Charles Celano and members of the TPD honor guard.
Matt graduated from Los Alamitos High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from UC Santa Cruz.
He began his law enforcement career with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he was assigned to Men’s’ Central Jail.
But he longed to be a street cop, and joined the Cypress PD in April 2008.
His various assignments there included motor officer (his favorite), detective, honor guard member, homeless liaison officer, patrol officer, field training officer and police explorer advisor.
In a sign of how Ward treated everyone with dignity, at least one homeless man reached out to another Cypress officer to tell him how sad he was to hear of Ward’s passing.
Ward went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Brandman University, and was next in line to be promoted to sergeant, Cypress PD Chief Rod Cox said.
Cox, during his remarks, pointed out a motorcycle on the stage.
“Liam, do you see that?” he addressed the 5-year-old. “That was what Matt rode when he was a motor officer. Pretty cool, eh?”
Cox mentioned Ward’s famous pre-shift routine of slathering sunscreen all over his face, head and arms to protect his fair skin.
“He called it ‘Ginger Cologne,’” Cox said.
Students from Grace Christian School in Cypress head back after waving flags at the hearse carrying Cypress PD Officer Matthew Ward as it drove by the school.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OCAllison, whose first date with Matt was on her 21st birthday, will miss Matt laughing out loud at TV shows, and his ability to asleep on airplanes before they left the ground.
She will miss how he needed directions to the grocery store down the street.
And so much more.
Matt loved to be outdoors. He loved volleyball and golfing and surfing and hunting.
Most of all, he loved spending time with his family.
Ward became a police officer “to make some kind of difference,” Cox said, referring to an application Ward filled out as part of his hiring process. “In this career, the harder you work, the more you’re going to get out of it.”
Morales, in his remarks, said: “Law enforcement is blessed with people who possess honor, integrity, devotion, dedication and commitment to public service. Today, we celebrate and honor one of these law enforcement professionals.
“Matt understood and knew the principles of law enforcement. He knew that the fundamental duty was to serve humankind. His life is an example to all what it means to hold the public trust.”
Cox said Cypress PD personnel found a police officer’s prayer on a card Ward kept in his shirt pocket while on patrol. He said the prayer captured what kind of man he was.
The prayer reads:
Lord, fill my heart with courage and determination. Guard my heart from prejudice, injustice or fear.
Give me a servant’s heart and protect me in your care as I seek to shield others from the dangers surrounding them.
Make my words tender but firm.
Make my eyes alert and sure.
Make my feet swift to do good and preserve the law, and let my hands reach out to those around me with love and compassion.
Keep my mind centered on you, but most of all, Lord, make me wise.
Tustin PD Sgt. Sara Fetterling, left, salutes as honor guards from various cities line up for their turn to give their salute at the start of a memorial service for Cypress PD Officer Matthew Ward.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC