Thousands of mourners including family members, police officers and Ontario politicians lined the halls of the Toronto Congress Centre Wednesday to celebrate the life of slain Toronto police officer Const. Andrew Hong.
In a ceremony that stretched almost three hours, a host of people paid tribute to the man affectionately known by police as "Honger." The 48-year-old died in what police described as an unprovoked and deadly "ambush" during his lunch break at a Mississauga Tim Hortons last week.
He was one of two victims who died shortly after the shootings, with a third dying in hospital days later.
"He was a big man with a big personality. He was larger than life," Hong's wife, Jenny, said during the service. "We miss him every day, and our home will always feel empty without him."
She told the amassed crowd that Thursday would have been the couple's 21st wedding anniversary.
"So Andrew, if you are listening, please know that you will always and forever be the greatest love of my life," she said. "Happy anniversary."
During tributes both personal and professional, a picture of Hong emerged — a man who loved his family and being a police officer, who adored motorcycles and other big machines, as well as animals, cooking, Star Wars and video games.
WATCH | Andrew Hong loved being a police officer:
Hong's daughter, Mia, said her dad was always her loudest supporter. In any video shot during one of her sporting events, he was ever present, cheering the loudest.
"Dad, thank you for everything you've taught me," she said. "I won't forget it, I promise. Goodbye, dad."
An 'unspeakable loss'
Hundreds of police officers gave solemn salutes to the funeral cortege Wednesday morning, as the procession paid tribute to Hong's career with the force's motorcycle unit.
By mid-morning, motorcycle officers acting as honourary pallbearers accompanied the hearse along quiet Toronto streets as the funeral procession began.
Interim Police Chief James Ramer was among the officers who saluted Hong outside the building as the hearse arrived carrying a casket draped in a Canadian flag. The procession arrived shortly after four planes from the Waterloo Warbirds group, made up of active and retired police officers, performed a "missing man" flyover in a tribute to Hong.
Speaking at the funeral, Ramer told Hong's family that Toronto police will miss him as cherished colleague and a beloved mentor.
"But today we pledge to be here for you," Ramer said. "We pledge to be here for each other. We pledge to follow in your husband, father and son's example of humility, kindness and strength."
Premier Doug Ford also praised Hong's public service during his 22-year career as a police officer.
"He dedicated almost half of his life to the service, and was a dutiful and respected officer every day of those 22 years," Ford said.
His family is now grieving the "unspeakable loss" of a hero, Ford said.
"Sometimes these heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, as Andrew did."
Police services board Chair Jim Hart said Hong was a funny and warm "gentle giant," who did his job with enthusiasm each day.
"He was a person who routinely made life better for anyone in his orbit," Hart said.
'Larger than life'
Hong spent the past 19 years of his career with Toronto police traffic services working with a specialized motorcycle unit that provides security escorts for dignitaries like prime ministers and presidents.
The father of two began his policing career in 2000, moved to traffic services two years later and "found his passion in the Motor Squad" in 2008, Toronto Police Services said.
Biographical notes from the force described Hong as "extremely passionate about his work" and said he excelled in his role as a motorcycle instructor, where he helped train other officers. His wife said he loved training people to ride, and he always came home from work energized.
"I can't believe they pay me to ride a motorcycle," she said her husband would often say.
The loss of the collegial and well-liked officer who "loved to laugh with his colleagues" has "left a void" for the entire police service, the force said.
"(Hong) always made his presence known and put a smile on everyone's face," the force said. "He will be missed immensely, but will live on through memories and stories."