Gov­er­nor, law en­force­ment honor sec­ond trooper killed in Char­lottesville crash

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Vo­gel­song Staff Writer

CH­ESTER­FIELD — As the he­li­copters he so loved in life flew over­head, hun­dreds gath­ered Satur­day morn­ing at Ch­ester­field’s South­side Church of the Nazarene to honor the last jour­ney of Vir­ginia State Po­lice Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, to his fi­nal rest­ing place.

In the last of three fu­ner­als for those who lost their lives Aug. 12 after vi­o­lence broke out at a white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Cullen was re­mem­bered as a de­voted hus­band and fa­ther, a leader in law en­force­ment, an ad­ven­turer and, in the words of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, “a silent gi­ant.”

“He was the best of the best of the Vir­ginia State Po­lice,” said McAuliffe.

The gov­er­nor was in a po­si­tion to know: for the past three and a half years, Cullen had served as his pi­lot on of­fi­cial vis­its around the com­mon­wealth. Hap­pi­est in a cock­pit, the trooper didn’t talk much, both McAuliffe and VSP Su­per­in­ten­dent Col. Steven Fla­herty re­mem­bered, un­less the sub­ject was his

“(Lt. H. Jay Cullen) will be so sorely missed, but I will al­ways re­mem­ber him.”

fam­ily or dogs.

Cullen fell in love with fly­ing at an early age. De­ter­mined to be­come a pi­lot, he en­rolled at Em­bry-Rid­dle Aero­nau­ti­cal Univer­sity in Day­tona Beach, Fla., and went on to be­come a flight in­struc­tor be­fore join­ing the Vir­ginia State Po­lice in 1993. Six years later, he be­came a troop­er­pi­lot in VSP’s Avi­a­tion Unit, where he rapidly climbed the ranks, ul­ti­mately be­ing named unit com­man­der this past Fe­bru­ary.

“I think he loved it ev­ery day he was there,” said Will Payne, who met Cullen at Em­bry-Rid­dle and formed a life­long friend­ship with him.

On Aug. 12, the day of his death, Cullen was again air­borne, pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance to law en­force­ment in Char­lottesville in a Bell 407 he­li­copter with his col­league, Trooper-Pi­lot Berke M. M. Bates. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have yet to de­ter­mine what went wrong, but shortly be­fore 5 p.m. the he­li­copter crashed into a wooded area of Albe­marle County. Both Cullen and Berke were killed.

While the cause of the crash has not yet been dis­cov­ered, col­leagues re­called Cullen as se­ri­ous about safety. Sev­eral times, McAuliffe re­mem­bered, he had been frus­trated by Cullen’s re­fusal to send up a he­li­copter for the gov­er­nor when con­di­tions were un­fa­vor­able.

“I would fly any­time, any­where, in any con­di­tion, in any air­craft with Jay Cullen,” said Fla­herty.

Down on the ground, too, he was a sta­bi­liz­ing force for many. A fam­ily man, he pre­ferred to spend his non-work­ing

—Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

hours at home with his wife, Karen, and his two sons, Max, 14, and Ryan, 17. Of­ten, he was so ea­ger to en­gage with his chil­dren when he got off work that he would jump into a bas­ket­ball game or help Ryan with an oil change be­fore he had even changed out of his uni­form.

The Cullen home, said Rev. Gor­don Pruitt, pas­tor of the fam­ily’s church, Wood­lake United Methodist, was one “of great joy” and shared laugh­ter. Jay and Karen Cullen were de­scribed by many as “soul­mates,” a cou­ple who got to­gether after he left a note on her car that read: “Will you go with me? Yes or no?” Over the years, they nav­i­gated life’s ups and downs to­gether, hav­ing two chil­dren and over­com­ing Karen Cullen’s strug­gles with breast cancer and a bro­ken neck.

“Jay was calm. Jay was un­der­stand­ing,” said Pruitt. “Jay was the rock.”

Although on Satur­day it was ev­i­dent that many of the hun­dreds who turned out to mourn Cullen’s pass­ing felt un­moored by the loss, that grief was min­gled with a strain of grat­i­tude from those whose paths had crossed with the trooper’s over the years.

As McAuliffe said, “He will be so sorely missed, but I will al­ways re­mem­ber him.” — Sarah Vo­gel­song may be reached at svo­gel­song@progress-in­dex. com or 804-722-5154.

Will Payne, a long-time friend of fallen Vir­ginia State Po­lice Lt. H. Jay Cullen, ges­tures up­wards as he talks about what he thinks Cullen may have thought about all the at­ten­tion paid to him, during a memo­rial ser­vice at South­side Church of the Nazarene in Ch­ester­field on Satur­day.

An Amer­i­can flag is re­flected on the wind­shield of a hearse car­ry­ing the re­mains of Vir­ginia State Po­lice Lt. H. Jay Cullen fol­low­ing a memo­rial ser­vice for the of­fi­cer at South­side Church of the Nazarene in Ch­ester­field on Satur­day.

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