Local News

'May we all leave a similar legacy:' Fallen Knightdale officer laid to rest

Posted October 21, 2021 8:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2021 6:23 p.m. EDT

— Family and friends, as well as fellow first responders, gathered to honor and remember fallen Knightdale police Officer Ryan Hayworth in a private ceremony Friday.

Hayworth, 23, was killed on Interstate 540 early Sunday while responding to a crash on the side of a highway.

Photos at the front of the church showed Hayworth in the police uniform he loved.

Candlelight vigil for Officer Hayworth planned for Wednesday evening

Before joining the Knightdale Police Department, Hayworth also served in the Army National Guard, and was deployed to Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and many other honors.

A love of service ran in his family. His father, Tim Hayworth, is the retired police chief in Zebulon. Tim Hayworth expressed in a letter "heartfelt thanks" to the Knightdale Police Department and all the surrounding departments that reached out or assisted in the time following his son's death.

"Please, never, ever forget my son," Tim Hayworth wrote in the note. "He would be so honored with this entire process."

Knightdale Police Chief Lawrence Capps said Hayworth made an impact on so many people.

"He understood his purpose," said Capps. "The manner in which he lived made him remarkable."

Capps also added he was "crushed" by his death, but that remembering Hayworth's drive has given him strength.

"Ryan has left an undeniable mark on my life, and I'm all the better for it," said Capps.

Capps, addressing Hayworth's parents, said they were responsible for the man he was.

"You trained your child in the way he should go and he never parted from it -- God, country and his fellow man," said Capps. "Thank you for sharing your son with us for a little while. May we all leave a similar legacy."

With emotion breaking through his voice, brother Adam Hayworth remembered a man with a love of service.

"He always wanted to be a cop," said Adam Hayworth. "Thank you for letting him live his dream, for as little time as he had on this planet."

Adam Hayworth said that his brother always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, eventually becoming a police chief.

“He would, without a doubt, risk his life for anyone else,” said Adam Hayworth.

Adam Hayworth shared a message for anyone with a sibling: “Never take them for granted,” noting it was something he wished he'd known before.

"One of the main things I regret is I never told him I loved him, even though he knows," said Adam Hayworth through tears. "It was supposed to be me and him when mom and dad passed away. It was supposed to be us."

Adam Hayworth ended by saying he will still save his brother a seat at his wedding, with a slice of cake like he was so looking forward to.

Ryan Hayworth's faith, his love of his country and his passion for service to his community were echoed by each speaker who approached the podium.

Along with his dedication to service, Hayworth had a love for God.

“Ryan is in a destination I want to reach myself,” said Capps.

Several songs were performed throughout the service, favorites of the deceased, including "I'll Fly Away" and "Trust in Jesus."

For all he did for the country and his community, many gathered for a final thank you.

"He served his country, and he served his community, and he died for it. The least we can do is show him support for that,” said Matt Griner who viewed the processional.

People lined the highway for the procession from the church where his life was celebrated to the place he would be finally laid to rest.

Some carried flags and raised a hand in salute.

The State Highway Patrol transported Hayworth to his final resting place using a horse-drawn military wagon.

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