Just before 10:30 a.m. Friday, uniformed officers and civilians alike stood at attention along the hall of Overlake Christian Church in Redmond.
While a number of the uniforms represented law enforcement agencies throughout the state — from as nearby as the Bellevue Police Department, to as far as the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Border Patrol — a large portion of the men and women in blue were from the Kirkland Police Department.
They were all there to pay their last respects to Sgt. Nathan Rich, their brother in arms who died Oct. 13.
Rich died of natural causes in his home. He is survived by his two adult children, six siblings, his mother and father. He was 43.
Silence filled the hall as a procession with a casket draped with the American flag, members of Rich’s family and a number of law enforcement officers made its way down toward the worship center, where the service would be held.
The service included the staples of a law enforcement funeral: a posting of the colors by the Kirkland police honor guard, a moment of silence, ceremonial honors and a retiring of the colors.
KPD Chaplain Vince Armfield explained to those who were attending their first law enforcement funeral that each activity has its meaning and is steeped in tradition, with military roots.
Rich, a graduate of Washington State University, also had military roots prior to joining the department, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In addition to these traditions, the memorial service included four speakers: Rich’s brother Jared Rich, Cpl. Matt Anderson of KPD, Nathan Rich’s friend Cris Leffler and Kirkland Police Chief Cherie Harris.
A HERO HELPING OTHERS
During his remarks, Jared Rich thanked his younger brother’s law enforcement family, telling them that after getting to know them over the past week, he knew why Nathan Rich loved his job.
“We consider you to be our family as well,” Jared Rich said.
His words also brought a few laughs as he shared different aspects of his brother’s personality with the audience, including how dying of natural causes was not what Nathan Rich had in mind for his passing.
Jared Rich also shared what he called “Nathanisms,” or words and phrases his brother said often, such as, “The secret to looking as good as (Nathan Rich) is clean living.”
Nathan Rich was inspired to become a Marine by his grandfather, Poppa Payne, Jared Rich said. From his dad, Nathan Rich learned about the importance of service and from his mother, he learned how to love. Jared Rich noted his brother’s honorable character and his love, compassion and kindness for others as well as the subtle acts of service he performed. Nathan Rich would do anything he needed to do to help others.
“He treated all with respect,” Jared Rich said. “Nathan was a hero of mine.”
EXPLETIVES AND HOSPITAL VISITS
Anderson shared about the type of friend Nathan Rich was. He was the kind of friend who would visit you in the hospital at 4 a.m. and bring his big screen television, Xbox and diet Mountain Dew — so he would have all the comforts of home while you were in the hospital — Anderson said, sharing a laugh with the audience.
“You can always count on Nathan for a laugh,” he said.
Anderson also touched on Nathan Rich’s “unique mastery of the English language.” This included an expletive expression not fit to print — though many in the audience were familiar with — as well as a phrase Anderson alluded to that even his late friend would not feel comfortable repeating in a church.
A FUN-LOVING FATHER
Leffler read remarks written by Nathan Rich’s two children, Makinzie Rich and Nason Rich.
The two shared stories of their upbringing, including how their father had read to them each night growing up and his attempts to have them re-enact the Christmas nativity story during the holidays. The latter was something Nathan Rich and his six siblings had done growing up and he was forced to give up as his daughter and son could not accomplish it with their more limited number of actors.
Makinzie Rich and Nason Rich also mentioned how important animals were in their home, noting the numerous pets they had in the house growing up and how the death of Australian “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was an “embarrassingly” tough time for their family.
Leffler also read the siblings’ recounting of some of the family vacations they went on and how their father would get more excited about the trips than they would, bringing up a particular trip to Disneyland during which Nathan Rich would wake his children up at 7 a.m. each day and make them ride every single ride and stay at the theme park till closing. By the end of that trip, Makinzie Rich and Nason Rich were “Disneyed” out and their father would return to the “Happiest Place on Earth” three more times — two of which were without his children.
Makinzie Rich and Nason Rich’s remarks ended with them thanking KPD and the Behind the Badge Foundation. The foundation provides comprehensive support to the state’s law enforcement agencies, families and communities after an officer has died or suffered serious injury in the line of duty.
“He was so proud to be part of (the law enforcement family),” Leffler read.
A TRUE, CHOSEN WARRIOR
While the first three speakers spoke about who Nathan Rich was outside of his work, Harris spoke about his career and the type of police officer he was.
Rich joined KPD 1998 when he was hired as a patrol officer. He was part of the SWAT team from 2001-12 and also served as a firearms instructor, a member of the honor guard and a training officer. He was promoted to sergeant in 2010 and became the traffic sergeant in 2014.
In addition, Rich was awarded the Medal of Valor for courage in the line of duty in 2015 and served as a former president of the Kirkland Police Guild.
“Sgt. Nathan Rich was a friend, a mentor, a leader and he was, no bones about it, a true warrior,” the police chief said.
Harris said he was instrumental in upgrading the technology the department used to document fatality collisions and that he insisted officers regularly trained in the use of this equipment.
She said when she first met him, she was struck by Nathan Rich’s confidence and she wasn’t sure if it was arrogance. As she grew to know him, she saw that it was a product of his honesty and integrity.
Harris also discussed how she worked with Nathan Rich when he was the president of the department’s guild. She said some of his “demands” included the department transitioning to Smith & Wesson 1911 handguns and allowing officers to carry a tactical tomahawk, both of which got a laugh from the crowd.
“Nathan could be quite persuasive and truly spent his time trying to improve morale, eliminate redundancies and constantly push for change for the betterment of this department,” Harris said.
She said he had a huge heart and left a positive impression on the community, sharing a story about a friendship Nathan Rich developed with an elderly gentleman who conducted his own traffic studies in the city and often demanded an audience with the mayor. Harris said a number of people have questioned how they would deal with the gentleman without Nathan Rich’s help.
“He was just genuine,” Harris said.
She said in their profession, there are many who are called to go into law enforcement, but few are chosen. Harris placed Nathan Rich in the latter category.
“He was absolutely a chosen warrior,” she said.