GUELPH, Ont. - A young policewoman who achieved her childhood dream of joining the force only to have it cut short by a tragic car crash was remembered Thursday for her fearless approach to life and her unwavering devotion to her community.
Police officers from across the province were among the thousands of mourners who gathered to pay tribute to Const. Jennifer Kovach, 26, who was killed last week when her cruiser crossed the centre line and collided with a bus.
That Kovach was responding to another officer's call for assistance at the time only shows how passionate she was about the work she considered her calling, Guelph Police Chief Brian Larkin told the sombre crowd that nearly filled the 5,000-seat Sleeman Centre.
"Without fear, she selflessly accepted that call to duty and sacrificed her life for the greater cause and the greater good," said Larkin, describing his colleague as a "young, vibrant and dedicated police officer" who inspired all around her.
Const. Scott Grover, Kovach's supervisor for the past two and a half years, asked those gathered to "mourn the loss and celebrate the life" of an officer he called "a hero in life, not in death."
A daredevil who loved to ride dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, often returning covered in mud, Kovach encouraged others to test their limits and live for the moment, or "live loud," as friends and relatives said she put it.
Her taste for adventure meant her parents worried about her safety more outside work than on the job, her father Bill Kovach, a retired paramedic, joked during a tearful tribute to his daughter.
Kovach's mother, a former longtime Guelph city councillor and former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said her daughter "never missed an opportunity" to experience new things.
"She packed more into her short life than most people do in a lifetime," Gloria Kovach said.
Jennifer's proudest achievement was earning her badge — number 72 — and serving her hometown, a goal she set as a young girl, her mother said.
"Jennifer didn't just go to work, she lived her dream. She loved this community and the people in it," she said, adding her daughter aspired to become a coach officer so she could share her passion with the next generation of recruits.
Even in death, Kovach thought of others, her mother said, noting her daughter's decision to be an organ donor has allowed two people to see.
Ontario's Lieutenant Governor said Kovach was an inspiration.
"When a police officer dies in the line of duty it affects us all… Jennifer represented the virtues we admire most as a province and a nation, the virtues of duty and courage," said David Onley.
Many mourners wore a memorial pin inscribed with the constable's name and badge number, while Guelph Transit buses flashed "R.I.P. #72" and flags across the province were flown at half-mast.
Church bells tolled as residents watched the police procession march solemnly through the city's downtown ahead of the funeral service.
Matt Jotham, president of the Guelph Police Association, said Kovach's death has weighed heavily on the force.
"We all know each other, we have two detachments but we're a close-knit police service. It's been difficult," he said.