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Widow of fallen officer remembers her ‘knight in shining armor’

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You know how all girls want to have that prince that comes and saves them? That knight in shining armor? Well, he was mine, literally. – Nanette Wride

BENJAMIN — Cory and Nanette Wride were married just three months after meeting.

For Nanette, who had been married previously, meeting Cory was something out of a fairy tale.

"You know how all girls want to have that prince that comes and saves them? That knight in shining armor? Well, he was mine, literally," she said.

Cory Wride was Nanette's prince. And Nanette "was his queen and he treated her as such," said Kathy Wride, Cory's mother.

"He had such an eloquent way with words. He would leave me notes. I'd wake up, he'd be gone to work, and there would be a note on his pillow, and of course his side of the bed would be made because he was such a neat freak, but he would leave me notes.

"And they were wonderful, they were beautiful letters. I still have all of them," said Nanette, speaking with the Deseret News and KSL Sunday night, hours before a candlelight vigil was held to remember and celebrate the life of the fallen 44-year-old sheriff's sergeant.

"He would bring me flowers. And it wasn't like one or two, it was dozens every week. I was always on his mind. He would call me seven or eight times a day," recalled Nanette Wride.

Cory Wride was a quiet country boy and a gentleman who lived for his family, for helping others, and who preferred to lead by example rather than words. He was gunned down Thursday in his patrol car after stopping to help a motorist, an altercation that would lead to injuries to a second law enforcement officer and the death of the suspect.

Cory Wride's family gathered Sunday morning and evening to talk about this husband, father and son, a man whose legacy is defined by integrity.

"There were three things that were important to Cory," his father, Blake Wride, said Sunday. "The important things in life for Cory were his family, his faith and serving other people. That was what he was about. He did it well, but he did it quietly. There is no place that he'd rather be than home with his family. He cherished that, just to hang out and be there."

Said his mother: "He was very much a person who lived the kind of a life that any mom would be proud of. He was tender and kind and gentle. The most important thing in his life was his family, his wife and his children," she said.

An 18-year love affair

Cory, who loved the outdoors, lived with his wife in the farming and ranching community of Benjamin. At their house Sunday night, American flags lined the front of their property and little flags lined his walkway. A Utah County sheriff's deputy stood by out front in honor of their fallen brother. A deputy will remain there until his funeral on Wednesday.

Surrounded by family members, Nanette Wride clinched a tissue in one hand and tightly held onto Cory's badge in the other as she spoke. It was the badge he was wearing the day he was killed.

Cory Wride was a romantic, Nanette joyfully recalled. He proposed to her during a horse carriage ride around Temple Square in Salt Lake City and the courting never stopped.

"It was always like that for 18 years of marriage. It was a mad love affair. We were probably grossing people out because we were mushy all the time," she laughed. "You can't be married to better than that. Seriously. The most wonderful man in the world."

As Nanette Wride was picking up items around her house on the day of the shooting, she found a glass of dry Jello mix hidden behind a picture. It was one of Cory's favorite treats, to dip his finger in the Jello powder and suck on it as he was walking through the house. Like his badge, the glass is now a memory that she keeps close by.

Her remembrances Sunday night included jokes and smiles as she sat in a chair surrounded by her sons. But she also confided that the only reason she has a strong façade now is because of the enormous love and support she has received from her family, Cory's police brethren, and the community.

"From the point that it happened (pauses), every turn I've had someone there. From the time I found out, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe and I freaked out and my very best friends that work with me were there and in my face saying, 'C'mon, you gotta breathe, you gotta breathe,' talking me through it. Just everywhere I go, all the beautiful thoughts from everyone, the flowers, the awesome hugs, the flags, everything," Nanette said.

"To be really honest, I'm afraid when this is all over, that in my alone times, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm frightened because I don't know how to raise my family anymore without him. I don't know how to breathe without him. He was my breath. So I'm afraid, for right now, I'm taking it two minutes at a time. And when I start to freak out I just get help, and that's why I have a lot of people around me."

Preparing to serve

Cory Wride was born in San Juan County. Even though his family moved to American Fork when he was 2, San Juan County remained an outdoor paradise that they still visited often.

From an early age, Wride's parents said their son knew he wanted to be a police officer.

"I actually was not really excited about law enforcement at that time, I guess because a mom knows of the dangers. But it was almost inbred in him, That's what he wanted to do," said Kathy Wride, whose brother was a longtime member of the Spanish Fork Police Department.

Cory Wride's parents said their son had an inner desire to serve people that needed to be fulfilled.

"Cory grew up really kind of shy and a child that was comfortable watching before he joined in. And he has a very, very kind heart and gentle spirit. And I think part of the police department that attracted him was knowing that in that capacity he could reach out to others in kindness and be helpful," his mother said.

"Looking back now, as we've reflected on things, I don't think it was at all about the glory. He didn't need that. I really think it was something probably at that time that even he didn't understand, but did later, that he liked people, and he wanted to serve and be of service of them," Blake Wride said.

Cory Wride joined the Utah Army National Guard after high school, following in his father's footsteps. Blake Wride served more than three decades with the Guard. Cory then went on an LDS mission to New York City, a place that he had had a premonition he would be sent to, and a place his family fondly remembers chuckling over, thinking about the "Utah cowboy" being sent to The Big Apple.

After his mission, he became certified as a law enforcement officer in Utah and got a part-time job with the Department of Corrections. He was offered a full-time job, and was about to take it, when the Utah County Sheriff's Office called and offered him a position. Wride was just a year shy of serving 20 years with them when he was killed.

Leading by example

Wride loved the outdoors and pheasant hunting with his family. For the past eight years, they had gone to South Dakota to hunt. But he was also the type of man that would drive through grocery store parking lots looking for people who needed help loading groceries into their vehicles, or other assistance Nanette said.

Still, more than anything, he loved his wife, Nanette, and his children.

Over the weekend, Wride's sons brought their grieving mother and 15-year-old sister roses, just as their father would have done.

"He was a good example in teaching, especially the boys, in how to treat a lady, or a young woman or their mom," Kathy Wride said.

"I idolized him. I wanted to be like him. He took me pheasant hunting and deer hunting every year. He taught me how what I wanted to be in the future. And now that he's gone, it's like, how can I take what he treated my mom through 18 years of marriage to my wife and my kids?" said his son, Chance Wride.

"My mom was the type of lady who'd always teach me to open doors for girls, you see someone who needs help you do it. And my dad always reinforced it. He taught us that the Gospel is number one in our lives," said his son, Chance Wride.

Wride loved being a police officer, but his family said he rarely talked about his job.

"He took his work very seriously but he also kept it very private, and I think that had a lot to do with the situations that law enforcement officers are a part of that doesn't necessarily need to be shared with everybody, the hardships that they deal with," his sister, Anne Curtis, recalled.

"He never ever shared things with us. I learned not to press," his father said.

But during the past few days, Wride's parents have heard many stories of their son's kindness and how he treated all people, even suspects, with respect. Kathy Wride said the stories have been "therapeutic" for her.

"We are just so proud of his gentle spirit and the integrity that he had in his career and we are impressed with the number of lives he's touched for good. We hope that's how he's remembered. He's been a quiet giant," she said.

Service to others

Cory Wride was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and taught a gospel doctrine class for several years.

"He was someone who seriously honored his priesthood. He wore it everywhere he went. He was always someone you could call to get a priesthood blessing. He always was about serving the Lord, that was him all the time," Nanette Wride said.

"He taught me that I had self-worth. And that I had a Heavenly Father that loved me as much as he loved me but more. And I think that he saw that in all people. He had a great love for the Gospel."

On Thursday, as he had so many other times in the past, Wride stopped to assist what he thought was a stranded motorist in Eagle Mountain. But while Wride struggled to identify who was in the stopped pick-up, a handgun was pointed out the back window at him. Wride was shot twice and killed in his patrol car.

Sheriff's deputy Greg Sherwood was injured, shot in the head while pursuing the suspect. His condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Saturday.

The man suspected of doing the shooting, Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, was shot by law enforcement officers and died of his injuries Friday afternoon.

"To say there isn't anger at something like this at some point is to either not be telling the truth or not facing reality. How can you not have anger? Your son has been taken away from you. That's not supposed to happen. So there was a time when the perpetrator was still alive I said, 'I just want to look him in the eye.' Not say anything," Blake Wride said.

"I realize that you have to get past that. Yes, there's anger. You need to have that. But you have to work through it and you have to let it go because it doesn't do any good. Cory would be the first to say, 'Why are you being angry? It isn't going to change things. It isn't going to make it any better.'"

Cory's mother added: "For me, the anger is the fact Cory was taken way too young, too soon. That first night it was very difficult to sleep. And I was thinking how difficult this was and how sad I was for all the things Cory will miss with his two younger children, especially because he'll never see Kylie go to her first prom. He won't see Tyson graduate this coming May from high school. He'll never see the things they'll accomplish in their lifetime.

"And then a thought came into my mind that there's also another family that's grieving. And that's the individual who took his life. And my heart aches for that mom and those siblings too because they're going through very similar things and feelings we are," Kathy Wride said.

Blake Wride said it was almost as if his son knew something bad was about to happen. He remembers a week before the shooting, his son called him while working a late night shift, saying how much he missed his family and needed to be home with them.

The next day, he invited his parents over for dinner and to give an LDS priesthood blessing to his wife who had been feeling ill. Blake Wride said there was a melancholy feeling that wasn't quite normal for his son.

"I just felt that there was this, I call it this melancholy feeling, just a serious atmosphere. But now I think I can look back and I personally, everybody might feel differently than me, that that was what we've come to call the tender mercies of the Lord in helping him know, and maybe even prepare that something was coming, and it did."

"And I think it's important for people to know that while this is tragic and horrific and something that we and the sheriff's department - and they are grieving so bad - will never get over. But there is some tenderness here. Cory was doing what he needed to do and I think he was doing it correctly and he went without even knowing he was gone."

About 300 peope turned out to the Sports Park in Spanish Fork for a candlelight vigil Sunday night, joined by family and others who simply wanted to pay their respects.

“We didn’t know the officer but for all that they do for us we decided to come down and just support the family and we are so grateful for all that they do for us,” said Jennifer Hughes of Salem.

Cory Wride's funeral will be held Wednesday at the UCCU Events Center at Utah Valley University in Orem. Blake Wride said early word was an estimated 10,000 family members, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and members of the public are expected to attend.

KSL: Fallen officer’s widow devastated by death of her ‘knight in shining armor’

KSL: Parents say Cory Wride lived life of service at work and home

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam