FOX LAKE, Ill. (FOX 32 News) - There was a huge show of support for Melodie Gliniewicz and her four sons at a community wide vigil Wednesday night in Fox Lake to honor her husband, Lt. Joe Gliniewicz.
As the family made their way to the stage, they were met with cheers and applause.
They stood arm and arm, and Melodie opened her heart.
“Joe was my best friend in the world, my hero, the love of my life for the last 26 and a half years, he was my rock as much as I was his rock. Every night he came home to me. He was the most wonderful, loving, caring father to our boys. My world got a little bit smaller with his passing and he will truly be missed by all of us,” Melodie said while fighting back tears.
Among the several thousand people who came out to show their support was 23-year-old Paul Culbertson, a former Police Explorer.
“I was at a McDonald's, I was sitting there with a group of buddies, and LT came up to me and said is this what you're going to do with the rest of your life? Just sit here at McDonald's and I kinda laughed and said no,” Culbertson recalled.
That was in 2009.
Culbertson would eventually accept Gliniewicz's offer to join the Police Explorers and it changed the course of his career and life.
Mayor Donny Schmit, Gliniewicz's long-time friend, said he, like many people in Fox Lake, now has a hole in his heart. But he talked of where Gliniewicz’s heart was.
“I spent the day before with Joe, and he was getting ready to retire and he wanted to make sure the Explorers were gonna go on long after he retired. And that was his main focus,” Mayor Schmit said.
Gliniewicz cared enough about his former Explorers that he called Culbertson just four days ago.
“He actually happened to give me a phone call just to check up, see how things are going,” Culbertson said.
One of the things he remembered about Gliniewicz was his smile, and so did many others.
“When you saw Joe smile, it lit up a room, you couldn't help but have it melt your heart and it was contagious and it made you smile also,” said Bonnie Carter, a Lake County Board Member.
The crowd gave a collective shout out to Joe to honor his wife and sons, yelling "We love you Joe" in unison.
For Paul Culbertson, Lt. Joe's legacy has shaped his.
“It's just takes one person that really impacts your life and he was the one,” Culbertson said.