Life of Coal City Marine celebrated during church service
MORRIS – Everybody stopped.
As the funeral procession for Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Hancock made it's way Friday from First Christian Church in Morris along roads in Coal City, Diamond and Wilmington, oncoming cars stopped.
It was as if time was frozen, with no thought to where they were going or what they should be doing, as they honored Hancock, who died May 19 after falling from a MV-22B Osprey during a training exercise in North Carolina.
Truck drivers, instead of rushing to get their load to it's drop-off point, waited as the Patriot Guard, the hearse, the family and friends proceeded in their solemn ride.
Homeowners held vigil in their yards, holding American flags in a show of support.
Schoolchildren in Coal City left their classrooms to stand along Route 113, some with tears streaming down their face. Others, in Cub Scout and Boy Scout uniforms, held two fingers to their heads in salute for Hancock, a fellow scout.
Construction workers stood shoulder to shoulder, the flag man standing with military precision, holding a salute as mourners passed by.
The procession to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood followed the celebration of Steven's life the family held Friday morning at First Christian Church in Morris.
While friends and family filled the church, many people, some strangers, held U.S. flags outside of the church.
"It is with great sadness we are all gathered," Pastor Greg Bolt, Hancock's former youth minister told those gathered inside.
He said that he has great confidence that Hancock is in heaven.
"Steven was a man filled with joy," said Kyle Wolf, current youth group leader at First Christian Church.
He said Hancock was fearless – not in a reckless way, but in a manner that meant attacking anything life handed him.
He told of a time Hancock served at a homeless shelter, and the group of volunteers he was with were chosen to play with the children there. Despite Steven not thinking of himself as a "kid person," he made it work.
He said that Hancock was always willing to help, and mentioned how he went to Joplin, Missouri, to help with tornado clean up.
"While Steven was not perfect, like the rest of us, his faith made him the person he was," Wolf said.
Steve Lutz, a board member with Christian Youth Center, told how Hancock's service project to become an Eagle Scout brought him to CYC, where he installed a floor in the gymnasium – after raising the funds to pay for it.
"We were told it was a very ambitious project, much larger than other Eagle Scout projects," Lutz said. "The children are blessed to have the fruits of Steven's labor."
Bolt, now a pastor at Toledo Christian Church, told those gathered how he first heard that Hancock was missing through a Facebook post.
"All day I was checking constantly for an update," he said. "Then we got the call that it was official."
He said Hancock was always that kid who had a grin on his face, the kid with an infectious smile.
"Any time we get it out of order, it makes no sense," he said. "A father and mother should never ever have to bury their children."
He said we will always ask "why?" and it's OK to ask.
"As much as we want Steven back here, he would not give up anything he is experiencing right now in heaven," Bolt said.
As the U.S. Marine Corps men assigned duty of pall bearers approached the flag-covered casket, they gave a slow, meaningful salute, before carrying Hancock from the church.