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Thousands attend funeral for fallen trooper and Nevada native

STEVE RANSON
Nevada Appeal News Service
The family of fallen Nevada Highway Patrol officer Kara Kelly-Borgognone follow the casket during the funeral services held Wednesday for her at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno. Kelly-Borgognone was killed last week in a traffic accident while responding to a bomb threat call. Scott Sady/Associated Press
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RENO – Thousands of mourners paid their final respects Wednesday to Kara Kelly-Borgognone, 33, a Fallon native and Nevada Highway Patrol trooper who died last week as a result of an automobile accident while responding to a bomb scare north of Sparks.

Approximately 3,000 people, including law enforcement officers from at least nine states and every corner of Nevada, filed into Lawlor Events Center on the University of Nevada campus to hear her colleagues and family praise Kelly-Borgognone as a dedicated mother, sister, daughter and public servant who spent 11 years in law enforcement. Kelly-Borgognone was also the first female Nevada trooper killed in the line of duty.

On her way to a call in Spanish Springs on Feb. 25, another vehicle broadsided her patrol car in an intersection. She was kept on life support for two days so her organs could be donated.

Patrol cars and motorcycle officers escorted her hearse in a procession that extended for miles and wound through Reno and up Virginia Street to Lawlor Events Center.

Dignitaries including Gov. Jim Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, attended the service. Members from the Nevada Highway Patrol, her family and pastor spoke about the 1992 Churchill County High School graduate.

Holding back tears and with his voice choking, Dirk Borgognone told of the first time he saw his future wife.

“Babe, remember the night I met you and saw you? I knew you were going to be mine,” he said.

Dirk Borgognone said his wife’s last words to him were, “Bye, lover. See you tomorrow night.”

Then, tragedy struck nine days ago.

“I remember the night of the accident, and you were gone,” he added.

Col. Chris Perry, chief of the Nevada Highway Patrol, said eulogies are the toughest speech a police chief delivers.

“Last week we lost a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and a member of the Nevada Department of Public Safety,” Perry said. “She was fearless in her job – tough, firm and no nonsense – but always in control. But she had her soft side and spoke about her daughters and her husband, Dirk. She shared how much she enjoyed being a mom.”

Kelly-Borgognone had two daughters, 13-year-old Blair and 3-year-old Ashlyn.

Perry said Kelly-Borgognone had a calling to be in law enforcement and loved it very much.

Before he left the podium, Perry had a message for his fellow officers.

“I am asking those who wear a badge to rededicate themselves to this profession.”

Kevin Kelly, Kara’s father, echoed Perry’s message and offered his own advice.

“Here are two things,” said Kelly, who also served in law enforcement. “If you wear a badge or whatever you do in your profession, be focused to do your best. That will honor my daughter.”

Kelly paused for a moment and said don’t ever go to work without telling others you love them.

Kelly said he and his family had a difficult time dealing with last week’s events involving his daughter.

“Being in law enforcement myself, I know the bonds of brotherhood,” he said. “Last week we could not have made it through as a family or parents without your support.”

Chris Kelly, who is also a trooper, said he was proud when his sister transferred to the Nevada Highway Patrol.

“Not many brothers get to work with their sisters, especially in law enforcement,” he said. “I remember Kara as a loving daughter, loving and devoted wife, an irreplaceable sister and caring mother.”

Maj. Brian Sanchez of the Nevada Highway Patrol said Kelly was the first parole and probation officer to receive the Silver Medal of Valor and recently had her name submitted for an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving because of the number of DUI arrests she has made. Sanchez also said she has also been awarded the department’s Purple Heart.

Trooper Dave Kester worked the same shift with Kelly-Borgognone and said they had a mutual respect for each other.

“I knew she cared and put her life on the line for me or any other officer,” he said.

Kester also presented a lighter moment involving Kelly-Borgognone. He said when they met during their shift, instead of rolling down the windows to speak with each other, they would use their public address systems.

Hundreds of friends and classmates from Fallon also attended the funeral. As the procession pulled up, Travis Hansen said Kelly-Borgognone’s death has been hard on his family. His father, Steve, is a close friend of Kelly-Borgognone’s mother, Jan.

“It’s been pretty tough on them,” he said.

Stephanie (Murdoch) Gibson, whose husband is a trooper in Fernley, graduated in 1992 and shared many classes with Kelly-Borgognone.

“Everything said today was not surprising,” Gibson said. “She had a fiery spirit, she was a good friend and nice person.”

After the U.S. flag covering her casket was folded and presented to her family, the final message indicated that today was the end of Kelly-Borgognone’s service in law enforcement.

A siren wailed before a dispatcher interrupted.

“George 6727. Attention Reno units. Kara Kelly-Borgognone is now 10-42 …”

On the Net

The family welcomes condolence messages in the family guestbook at the Web site of Walton’s Funeral Homes: http://www.waltonsfuneralhomes.com

See additional photos and video of the funeral and procession at http://www.nevadaappeal.com