RONDA — After giving his life in service, North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Samuel Bullard will continue to be remembered for his legacy of love.
That love culminated in his relationship with fiancée Michelle Leigh Mathis, which was celebrated during the funeral of Trooper Bullard Friday at the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College.
Speaking at the funeral N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper asked, “Why are we here today mourning the loss of a vital young man instead of celebrating another milestone with him, the wedding he was planning with his fiancée, Michelle Mathis, in just a few months?”
Expecting to be married on Aug. 18, pieces of the anticipated wedding could be seen throughout the center on Friday from flower arrangements to photographs.
Dressed in finery more suitable to the joyous occasion than the grief-filled event, Mathis and the family gracefully accepted the condolences of fellow troopers, friends and strangers exemplifying the qualities to which Trooper Bullard was attracted.
Having introduced the two, Brittany Martin knew how excited Bullard was to share his life with Mathis.
After an unsuccessful attempt to find suitable marriage material, Mathis and her best friend, Martin’s sister-in-law, put out an all-call, “because she had some duds lately. I took it to heart and I went on a search for someone that was kind, sweet hearted, family-orientated, and goal driven,” said Martin.
“Samuel was everything and more what Michelle would love in someone.”
Martin then helped Mathis and Bullard make the connection by supplying the phone number, answering questions and keeping Bullard calm.
“He was so nervous about the whole situation. He told me he’s never done anything like this before. [I told him to] just be yourself. I knew if Samuel showed his strengths, kindness, and driven ways, Michelle would love him.”
Love him she did, allowing her final letter to him to be read aloud at the funeral.
Referring to Bullard’s own letter writing skills, Mathis spoke of Bullard’s generosity of spirit and his kindness that she would forever hold dear to her.
“He truly made Michelle the happiest I’ve ever seen her before,” said Martin.
Bullard also made people in the community happy.
“I never met Trooper Samuel Bullard personally, yet I feel as if I knew him,” said Chelsea Blevins, who knew the trooper because of his volunteer work with Meals on Wheels.
“My grandma was part of Trooper Bullard’s route and she would talk with him daily,” said Blevins.
“He would talk to her about his desires to help others, his dreams of working for [Surry Highway Patrol], and his future with his beautiful fiancée. He touched my grandma’s life tremendously and was never afraid to share his love for Jesus.
“I’m incredibly thankful for all that Trooper Bullard did for Wilkes, Surry and Yadkin counties as well as North Carolina as a whole,” said Blevins.
Bullard did more than love his community through organized service. He was also known for kindness to strangers.
According to Cynthia Loomis, when her daughter overpaid for a truck she bought from Bullard, he did more than just return the money.
“When my daughter had went to pick the truck up, he had filled the gas tank up for her and also had the truck detailed from top to bottom,” said Loomis.
“He could have easily kept that $100 and my daughter would have never known the difference. There aren’t very many honest amazing people left like that in this world. The world needs more people like him.”
The multitude of stories of Bullard’s kindnesses may inspire others.
“It was amazing to see the Facebook posts about him and to see the pictures of those that came together on Friday,” said Jennifer Marion, who was unable to attend the funeral because she was not in town.
“It really shows just how important small towns are because as a whole, our communities come together to be there for the family, show their respects, and honor someone so brave. It makes a true pleasure to be from our area.”
Lori Holbrook, who had previously served Bullard’s Meals on Wheels route, also was impressed with the support, noting troopers from Michigan and California as well as the multitude of local uniforms.
First Sgt. Michael D. Baker, public information officer of the N.C. Department of Public Safety North Carolina State Highway Patrol, expressed gratitude for the continued support of the community as did Commander Col. Glenn M. McNeill.
Although the 2011 graduate of East Wilkes High School only served the highway patrol for three years, his love for his community and his fiancée is expected to last beyond his physical form.
“Their love will never fade away. Samuel will always be above watching and guiding her in all the right directions,” said Brittany Martin. “He was one of a kind.”
“I just feel that I’m very blessed to have met him,” said long-time friend, Serena Childress. “He was one of the nicest young men I have ever met.”
Donations to help with funeral costs should be sent to North Carolina Troopers Association-Office, Attn: Michelle Mathis, fiancée of Trooper Bullard, P.O. Box 840, Summerfield, NC 27358.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.