TAMPA — To his young grandson, Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Mark Longway was known as "Grandpa Cop" — a variation of a nickname he had for decades.
As a senior at Hillsborough High School in 1980, the teenage Longway so obviously wanted to work in law enforcement that he was known as "Officer Longway," said Idlewild Baptist Church pastor Brian McDougall, a former classmate.
"He was a young man who knew who he was, knew who he was called to be," McDougall said.
On Monday, nearly 1,000 people gathered at Idlewild for the funeral of Longway, 48, who died last week after his sheriff's cruiser collided with a semitrailer truck in downtown Tampa. He was on his way home from work. The Sheriff's Office says it's still unclear which driver ran the red light.
At the service, the crash was never mentioned. Instead, friends and family told stories about a man who took public service seriously but always kept people laughing.
Before the service started, it was apparent that Longway was an active man who prioritized his family and his service, both in the Air Force, and, during the last six years, as a sheriff's deputy.
As hundreds streamed past his flag-draped casket, pictures of Longway flashed on giant screens inside the sanctuary:
Longway skydiving, skiing with friends, kissing his wife at their wedding, holding his grandchildren, drinking beers with friends and posing in uniform.
Rick Hernandez, his roommate from his military days in Italy, stood behind the lectern and said he'll never forget how Longway immediately fell for a local Italian girl.
Longway wore out the pages of an English-Italian dictionary as he tried to get to know the woman who would soon be his wife.
"Mark taught me the meaning of love at first sight," Hernandez said.
Laura Longway didn't speak at the funeral, but she stood next to her daughters as the eldest shared memories of a father who would drop anything for his family.
He gave up KISS tickets when his younger daughter went into labor last year, and in August, he drove to Texas to celebrate his grandson's birthday.
"He wanted Grandpa Cop there," Longway's daughter, Brandi Trzaska said. "And he showed up, just like he promised."
Another friend, Deputy Alan Grinaldi, shared a story about how one time on the midnight patrol shift, Longway declared that they were going to go on a "quest to find the perfect Slurpee." So they went to all the 7-Eleven stores in their zone, Grinaldi said.
The crowd laughed as Grinaldi shared the story, but then he explained Longway's goal: making sure his co-workers were alert during the slow predawn hours.
"He always took it upon himself to look after us," Grinaldi said.
After the service, law enforcement lined up outside. A riderless horse stood by as the honor guard marched the casket out and carefully folded the American flag.
Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes as the hearse drove away, and Laura Longway was left clutching her husband's flag.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.