He was 48 when he joined the Ottawa Police — the oldest member ever hired by the city’s force.
At a time when many would be contemplating retirement, Const. Ireneusz (Eric) Czapnik decided to pursue his lifelong dream, to follow in his police officer father’s footsteps.
In his three years with the Ottawa Police, the father of four — dubbed by his colleagues as Pickles because of his love for his favourite snack — quickly became a role model for younger officers.
Thousands of people — including more than 4,000 officers with the Ottawa Police, RCMP and police from across North America — as well as the city’s Polish community, bid farewell to the 51-year-old officer at his funeral at the Ottawa Civic Centre Thursday. Czapnik was killed after being stabbed outside the Ottawa Hospital Dec. 29.
A hush fell over the crowd as the officer’s casket, draped with a white Ottawa Police flag and flanked by an honour guard, was brought in.
“He was a husband, brother, son, comrade, protector, and officer of the law,” said Czapnik’s stepson, Luckasz Galaska. “To some, he was known as Pickles. I know him simply as Dad.”
Growing up and watching Czapnik with his brothers and sister, Galaska said he “learned what kind of father I want to be.
“I have never met a person so dedicated and passionate about anything he did … He was a perfectionist. It had to be done right or not done at all.”
Czapnik was “the kind of man I want to be,” Galaska said.
“You will not be forgotten. You have raised the bar for us and we will not disappoint.”
He received a standing ovation for his speech.
“Eric was one of those unique individuals whose hearts knew no bounds,” said his brother-in-law, Michael Wooff.
“His children are his legacy.” To the children, Wooff said, “You are better prepared for life because of his love.”
“Pickles loved being Pickles,” said his colleague and friend, Const. Troy Froats. Often, he would jokingly refuse to answer calls from dispatch until they used the nickname, Froats said.
His lips quivering, Froats said, “To Eric, Pickles our friend, you will be deeply missed, but we know you will be watching over us, protecting us.”
“Eric was a man of honour serving his community, a man of passion serving his family and a man of principle serving with his team,” said Chief Vern White. “His was a special dream, one that was more of a passion than a profession and more of a calling than a vocation. One that called him later in life than most. His dream was to become a police officer.”