A York Regional Police officer who was killed in a collision with an alleged impaired driver last week is being remembered as someone who was “so many things to so many people.”
A funeral was held for Const. Travis Gillespie in Markham on Thursday, one day after the funeral for a Toronto police officer who was murdered in a GTA-wide shooting rampage.
The memorial service for Gillespie was held behind closed doors for friends, colleagues and family only but a stream of the proceedings was provided by the funeral home and audio was piped out into a media staging area.
Those who spoke at the roughly two-hour-long service shared stories and thoughts about the loving partner, son, grandson, brother, uncle, loyal friend, and dedicated police officer Gillespie was.
Gillespie joined YPR in Dec. 2019. Before then, he was a Metrolinx/GO Transit Sergeant for 11 years. The Northumberland County native also volunteered at Community Living and at Primal Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Leslieville.
His best friend and long-time colleague Taylor Gibb, a constable with York Regional Police who also worked with the fallen officer at Metrolinx, said it’s impossible to “bring to light the value of Travis within all of our hearts.”
“None of our lives will be the same with this void inside of us after losing Travis, but I hope your family feels profound levels of pride knowing he was unconditionally loyal as a friend, never wavered through the challenge of being a police officer, and was the best man that anyone would ever meet,” he said.
Gibb said Gillespie was a passionate person who had a “heart of gold” and woke up every day and rushed to help those in need.
Platoon colleagues described Gillespie as an “infinitely unique” individual who was “toxically positive and addictive,” he shared.
“Travis was ferociously humble. Travis was an inspiration. I looked up to Travis every day that we were together,” Gibb said, calling Gillespie someone who taught him “true leadership by leading from the front and always showing strength for the team.”
He also said Gillespie taught him to be more light hearted and to live more in the moment.
“I promise to embody your spirit and never let people forget the greatness that you were. We lost a hero last week and I'll carry the weight of your legacy forever,” he said.
Fellow colleague and close friend Mike Walton, a Metrolinx Special Constable, said Gillespie was “truly larger than life … the ultimate team mate, partner and leader.”
He said Gillespie was the glue who kept the team together and he left behind a “cavernous hole” when he moved on to YRP just before the start of the pandemic.
As a friend, he said Gillespie was by his side for every important moment in his life, including the bad times, and celebrated all of his achievements as if they were his own.
York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween visited the Gillespie family at their home last week and said he saw “firsthand how Travis inspired such love and how devastating his loss is to every member of (his) family.”
“When I spoke with his mom and dad and brother Dan, and other family members who were there, it was clear to me this is a loving family, a caring family and a supportive family. With the sincerest of compassion, we all stand with all of you,” he said. “Travis was clearly a special person. Others today have and will speak about his love of life, his love for his family and of course, his YRP work family, his strength determination and positive attitude and his outlook on life.”
MacSween went on to say that Gillespie was a “hardworking, dedicated, competent, and compassionate” team member, who “lit up a room” with his smile and the way he cared for his colleagues, his community and those he cared about.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also attended the service and said Gillespie was someone who was “admired by his colleagues” and who “demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his community like each and every police officer, firefighter paramedic does when they sign up.”
Ford said his spirit of service and love of his community extended beyond his role as an officer, calling him a “wonderful, fun, loving man” who gladly helped his neighbours and served the people in his community always with a smile on his face and a positive attitude.
“We're just all so blessed that people like Travis looking out for us. He'll be deeply missed by those you know and we will be forever thankful for Travis, his service to his community, and for the mark he’s left on all of us,” Ford said.
Gillespie was on his way to work at around 6 a.m. on Sept. 14 when the deadly collision occurred along Major Mackenzie Drive East.
Haoju Zhou, 23, of Markham, who was reportedly driving the vehicle that collided with Gillespie’s car, has been charged with impaired operation causing death and dangerous operation causing death.
Books of condolence, which will be sent to his family, have also been set up in the lobby area in each of YRP’s districts (#1 at 429 Harry Walker Parkway S. in Newmarket, #2 at 171 Major Mackenzie Dr. W. in Richmond Hill, #3 at 3527 Baseline Rd. in Sutton, #4 at 2700 Rutherford Rd. in Vaughan, and #5 at 8700 McCowan Rd. in Markham) as well as at York police headquarters, located at 47 Don Hollock Dr. in Aurora, for members of the public to sign.
To honour Gillespie, his family has set up the Travis Robert Gillespie Martial Arts Scholarship Fund. Each year, a child will be awarded a scholarship in his memory.Const. Gillespie is the second GTA police officer to be killed in the line of duty in the last week.