Thursday, December 2, 2021

The tragic death of Trooper Pratt

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

Tim Pratt, 55, was the pride of South Glens Falls. One of seven Pratt kids who grew up on Clark Street, Timmy was a Bulldog through and through, the son of community stalwarts Ruth and Town Justice Edward Pratt, himself a retired State Police sergeant. A 1979 South High graduate, Tim was a stock boy at the Joy Store and also worked at Rich Aluminum near the bowling alley before serving in the U.S. Air Force.

The 30-year New York State Trooper, who died last week when he was struck in darkness by an SUV while he was helping a lost trucker on Ballard Road, embodied his community’s loving spirit. He was always helping people. It was his mission, his consistent focus.

Whether stopping on the side of the Northway to help a stranded motorist, helping a fellow recruit shine his shoes at the academy, comforting a friend who had just lost her son in a wintry car crash, making three round trips in his Camaro during a snowstorm to rescue a carload of stranded motorists, or acting as a calming go-between when some criticized the selection of a particular South High Marathon Dance recipient a few years back.

At the Marathon Dance - Tim Pratt was always there, providing security, hobnobbing with friends, like Karen Carayiannis, his third-grade teacher at Harrison Avenue Elementary School, modeling Tim’s hat. Chronicle photo/Gordon Woodworth
At the Marathon Dance – Tim Pratt was always there, providing security, hobnobbing with friends, like Karen Carayiannis, his third-grade teacher at Harrison Avenue Elementary School, modeling Tim’s hat. Chronicle photo/Gordon Woodworth

Tim Pratt was always helping. And he had a smile on his face doing it.

He was a leader. He took to it naturally, his compassion coming from his parents and reinforced by siblings Patricia, Michael, Kathleen, Maureen, Laurie and Mary. It was evident in routine traffic stops, interactions with kids while on duty, his dignified presence at the Marathon Dance.

Tim’s love shone brightly for his kids James, Sarah and Shane, his grandchildren Taegan and Charlee, and his fiancée Sue and her daughters Taylor and Hannah.

His laugh (described by many as a cackle) spread naturally. His friend Sheriza Serravento said on Facebook, “I will never forget your kindness, contagious laugh and words of wisdom.”

There were police officers and first responders as far as the eye could see in front of St. Michael’s Church in South Glens Falls for Trooper Tim Pratt’s funeral. New York State Police photo
There were police officers and first responders as far as the eye could see in front of St. Michael’s Church in South Glens Falls for Trooper Tim Pratt’s funeral. New York State Police photo

‘He defined the word community’

Long-time friend Ginny (Luciano) Brophey said on Facebook: “Tim defined the word community. He touched everyone with his kindness and service.”

He just made you feel good. It didn’t matter if you knew him your whole life, or had just met him. At the Marathon Dance, it was hard to get near him because so many friends wanted to say hello and catch up.

Tim knew everybody in South Glens Falls. And he was his family’s rock. In his obituary, Tim’s siblings said he “was the man you called first when you were in a pinch or needed a helping hand. Simply because, everyone knew, no matter what, he would be there.

“To his family, that call rarely needed to be made. He was already a presence before anyone had a chance to dial his number.”

After his mother’s funeral earlier this year, the extended Pratt family gathered for a photo. Fittingly, Tim was in the center, smiling and holding Sue’s hand.

On Facebook, his sister Laurie said, “He is the hub of our wheel, the center of our universe. The glue.”

David Jones, a year behind Tim at South High and the longest tenured deputy in the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, was in the procession Wednesday that accompanied Tim’s body from Albany Medical Center to M.B. Kilmer Funeral Home.

As the procession carrying Trooper Tim Pratt’s body made its way up the Northway, it was greeted at every overpass by those paying their respects. Photo by a Trooper friend of Tim Pratt’s
As the procession carrying Trooper Tim Pratt’s body made its way up the Northway, it was greeted at every overpass by those paying their respects. Photo by a Trooper friend of Tim Pratt’s

“When we started, there were maybe 10 police cars,” David told me the next day. “On the Northway, every U-turn had police cars waiting to join the procession. At every overpass, there were people standing at attention, police officers saluting, firemen, first responders.

“By the time we reached Exit 17, there must have been 100 cars, probably more. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The procession rolled under a huge American flag held over Route 9 by tower trucks from local fire departments. As it moved north into the village, people lined both sides of the road. Another flag flew over the road near the turn to Kilmer’s.

Fast cars & his Harley motorcycle

Fellow Trooper Tracy Snell wrote on Facebook that Tim, known for his love of fast cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles, one day “threw the keys to his new IROC-Z Camaro to me and said, ‘Take it for a ride.’

“I promised to be careful, and he said, ‘Screw that. Take it out on the Northway and drive that bitch…see what it’ll do.’

“Am I surprised to hear he died while helping someone else out? Nope. He was always helping someone…everyone, really.”

Trooper Pratt led Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Sept. 11th Memorial Motorcycle Ride from Albany to New York City earlier this year. Albany Police photo by Steve Smith
Trooper Pratt led Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Sept. 11th Memorial Motorcycle Ride from Albany to New York City earlier this year. Albany Police photo by Steve Smith

When Mary Beth Yole Moreau’s son Ian was killed in a car crash in January 2015, she said, “Tim was my first phone call.

“He answered. He always answered. He gave me direction and showed up at the house the next day. Tim offered his services to lead Ian’s funeral procession, which included Ian’s log truck carrying his casket.

“Tim jumped up on the truck to make sure the flag was just right. Of course he did. He was a man of honor, a class act with an infectious laugh.”

And he was consistent, she said. Tim was Tim, whether it was at church, in the grocery store or at a local tavern.

Long supported the marathon dance

Marathon Dance advisor Dan Albert said as the annual event grew, Tim wholeheartedly supported the changes and helped upgrade security procedures. He was at the first two dances in 1978 and 1979, and was a fixture after returning from the Air Force. He was especially proud his class helped start the South High Marathon Dance.

In 2015, organizers surprised him with a plaque honoring his decades of service. His acceptance speech, not surprisingly, was about four seconds long. It wasn’t about him. It was never about him.

“The spirit of the Marathon Dance really aligns with Tim’s career with the New York State Police,” Dan said. “It’s the simple act of sacrificing yourself to others, often complete strangers, in a time of need. Most you didn’t know before you helped them, and you’ll likely go separate ways after, but you’ll feel a better person from the simple act of kindness.”

At Sunday’s calling hours, more than 1,500 people stood in line to pay their respects. Many Troopers wept, their shields bearing a blue line of mourning for their friend. Police officers were there from Massachusetts, Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, Colorado, Maryland, Illinois, California, Arizona, West Virginia and Canada.

Tim’s State Police motorcycle was roped off in the hallway. Two Troopers stood guard at his flag-draped casket.

His funeral on Monday was one of the largest in recent memory in South Glens Falls. Much of the St. Michael’s parking lot was kept free of cars, filled instead by row upon row of saluting, stone-faced State Troopers and other law enforcement officers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was there, as was Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Assemblyman Dan Stec and Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard. State Senator Betty Little stood in line for three hours the day before to speak to the family at the calling hours.

New York State Correction Officer Don Bovair, like Trooper Pratt a South High graduate, took this photo as he stood with several co-workers and hundreds of other law enforcement officers outside of the funeral at St. Michael’s Church in South Glens Falls.
New York State Correction Officer Don Bovair, like Trooper Pratt a South High graduate, took this photo as he stood with several co-workers and hundreds of other law enforcement officers outside of the funeral at St. Michael’s Church in South Glens Falls.

Shared badge # with his father

New York State Police Superintendent George Beach talked about Tim’s exaggerated radio signoff when, in his dulcet tones, he would end a transmission by slowly saying his badge number, which for years was 2519.

Just a couple of years ago, he finally got his father’s old badge, #1253, but he kept that familiar sign-off cadence.

Tim’s daughter Sarah spoke of how much she and her brothers were so like Trooper Pratt in that they too idolized their father. She remembered how when her grandfather died, Tim’s heart was broken but he somehow stayed composed. She said the same thing was now happening to her. She was somehow summoning the strength to get through the grueling grieving period.

She said she didn’t know how she was doing it until she realized it was her father helping her through it.

“This is his strength standing here talking to you today,” she said.

Following the funeral, the motorcycle-led procession to Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery went through Gansevoort and rural Saratoga County.

‘Farmers, little children saluted’

Trooper Pratt’s sister Laurie LaFountain wrote on Facebook, “As we drove from the church to the cemetery, through small towns and farm lands, people lined the streets. Flags hung from every available object they could hang from, even a hay baler. People who were out mowing their lawns, farmers who were haying their field, employees from small businesses, and little children were standing on the roadside, saluting my brother as he passed.

“It was the children who truly tore my heart apart. I can tell you this. We may be from small town America, living in upstate farm country. But we sure as heck are doing something right when hundreds of people stop what they are doing in their busy day to pay homage to a fallen hero, and have taught their pre-school age children to do the same.”

The Dunkin’ Donuts in South Glens Falls honored Tim with a thin blue line on their Boston Cream donuts. Mrs. LaFountain went to the store on Saturday afternoon to thank them.

“The young man I spoke to behind the counter could not have been more than 16 years old,” she wrote on Facebook. “He came around that counter so fast and hugged me. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask his name at that moment, but I will go back and learn it. What a wonderful young man: Such compassion in his face.

“I won’t ever forget the outpouring of love for such an amazing man as Tim.”

It’s a safe bet we won’t ever forget New York State Trooper Timothy Patrick Pratt, Shield #1253.

Copyright © 2016 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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