MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Funeral arrangements for Wayzata police officer William Mathews have been finalized, and hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Minnesota are expected to attend.
Mathews, 47, died in the line of duty last week after being hit by an SUV while removing debris from Highway 12. He was a 9-year veteran of the Wayzata Police Department, and he leaves behind a wife and 7-year-old son.
The SUV's driver, 54-year-old Beth Freeman, is charged with criminal vehicular homicide. She's accused of being on drugs and reading text messages behind the wheel prior to hitting Mathews. She was also driving with a canceled license.
Mathews' funeral is slated for Thursday morning at Wayzata Free Church. Organizers say thousands of law enforcement officers from across Minnesota and the country are expected to attend.
A local nonprofit of law enforcement spouses called Backing the Blue Line is delivering 2,000 blue roses to the funeral. Before the roses are delivered, they're trimmed, painted and adorned with a special message that says, "Blessed Are the Peace Makers. Never Forgotten." It also includes a thin blue line, as well as Officer Mathews' badge number.
"It's a good reminder that, God forbid, tragedy strikes, you're never going to be alone," Gena, a volunteer with the nonprofit, said.
"[The members] understand what it's like when your loved one doesn't come home when you thought they were going to at the end of the shift," Backing the Blue Line volunteer Meghann said.
Volunteer Gwen was tasked with tying the message cards to the roses using a blue and black ribbon.
"It's healing," she said of the roses. Her husband, Elk River officer Todd Besser, was shot and killed in 2015.
"I still have my roses from his funeral, and I have a bouquet of them on my mantle and then I have a single rose also," she said.
And with all of those flowers comes a heartfelt but sobering reminder of the sacrifices their spouses are willing to make.
"When you walk into that church and you see all these roses with your husband's name card on it, his badge number, it just is so powerful," Gwen said. "My heart truly is thinking of the (Mathews) family right now and what they're going through."
Each of those roses will be handed out to officers as they enter the church for Officer Mathews' funeral.
The rest will be given to his family and relatives as well as family members of the officers in attendance.
Backing the Blue Line has 1,600 members across Minnesota. Some volunteers came from as far as Duluth to help decorate the blue roses for Officer Mathews.
The funeral is open to the public, but seating will be limited. The public is encouraged to pay their respects to Mathews at the visitation or the processions following the funeral.
The visitation is scheduled for Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Wayzata Free Church. Traffic is expected to be heavy.
The processions will make their way Thursday from the church to Summit Park Cemetery. The first procession will include hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the state; the second will be made up of officers from Wayzata and Long Lake, the communities Mathews served.
Organizers say the procession route will go south on Highway 101 to Wayzata Boulevard. After a left turn on Superior Boulevard, it'll go along the shoreline of Lake Minnetonka before returning to Wayzata Boulevard and heading to the cemetery.
Residents are advised that parking will not be allowed near the church Thursday and that some roads will be closed due to the processions.
A memorial fund has been set up for officer William Mathews' family. You can donate to the Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo in Wayzata.
for more features.