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Family and Friends Salute a Fallen Deputy

Funeral: An Orange County sheriff's sergeant killed in the line of duty is recalled as religious, fun-loving.

September 27, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County sheriff's deputy who died following an on-duty traffic accident was remembered Thursday as a proud husband and father with a playful sense of humor and boundless compassion.

It was fitting, Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona told those who gathered for the patrolman's funeral, that one hour after Sgt. Matthew Davis died, his wife, Tammy, asked to meet the 17-year-old high school girl who had struck her husband's motorcycle. The two prayed together.

"I don't know what they said," Carona said, fighting tears. "But that was how they were."

About 3,000 people, including representatives of law enforcement agencies from around the state, attended the 2 1/2-hour funeral service at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. Davis, a father of three and a 16-year veteran, died Sunday, two days after the accident.

Following the service, a motorcade--large enough to snarl traffic on the Riverside Freeway--traveled to Crestlawn Memorial Park in Riverside, where Davis was buried. He had spent nearly his entire life in nearby Corona.

Davis, 38, was on motorcycle patrol in Mission Viejo when he was struck by the girl's car.

Despite their grief, family, friends and co-workers took time to laugh.

Don Miskulin said he met Davis 25 years ago when his new friend moved to Corona. He recalled Davis' varied attempts to fit in. "He was a punker, a skater, a surfer, and if you can believe it, even a preppy."

He said the two of them would deliver newspapers in the early hours and then meet--every morning--at a doughnut shop for apple fritters and coffee. They pulled pranks on teachers, traveled to Mexico to surf and climbed Mt. Whitney.

"Everyone has a best friend, but best friends can change. They come and go," said Miskulin, now a Riverside County sheriff's deputy. "But Matt was the one in a lifetime. He was forever."

Davis loved tinkering, friends said. He took apart a clock radio to see how it worked and once bought an old Volkswagen sedan and rebuilt the engine, only to have it break down three times in the next 18 months.

Davis, friends said, was a deeply religious man who volunteered at his church and attended services each Sunday morning, sitting in the front row with a Bible in one hand and taking notes with the other.

At work, Davis, who supervised 31 motorcycle deputies in southern Orange County, always made time for others, said Sgt. Steve Doan, a co-worker. Even cranky callers felt inclined to thank him for his sunny attitude, Doan said.

"He expected the best from his troops and even more from himself, and he always delivered," Carona said.

Five large monitors showed pictures of a smiling Davis hugging his children--John, 13, Jessica, 11, and Julianna, 7--his wedding picture, hiking with friends along the John Muir Wilderness Trail and on his patrol motorcycle.

"I don't know why God took Matt," Miskulin said. "We weren't ready to give him up."

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