Coupeville officer fondly remembered

In a full gymnasium late Monday afternoon, Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Garden talked about a Coupeville police officer who died last week.

Garden placed his own badge on the flag-draped casket of Deputy Marshal William “Billy Ray” Hibbs.

“He was one of us,” Garden said of Hibbs during the funeral service held at Coupeville High School. At that, the crowd rose in a standing ovation.

It was one of the ways family, friends, students and law enforcement officers said their last farewell to the 37-year-old Hibbs.

Hibbs, father of three, died of a heart attack Feb. 2 while he was jogging to warm up for a class he was scheduled to teach at Woodward’s Tae Kwon Do Academy in Oak Harbor.

Walking into the gym for the funeral, people could easily see two groups that were a major part of Hibbs’ life. Students from Woodward’s filled part of the bleachers on the left side of the gym while police officers, firefighters and paramedics sat on the other side.

Police officers from every department on the island, and from as far away as Seattle, attended the more-than-two-hour service.

Marshall Bronson, a Coupeville councilman who knew Hibbs for seven years, spoke during the service. He remembered him fondly as the “short, fat guy.” However, Bronson added that the stocky Hibbs always kept himself in great physical condition and had a good inquiring mind.

Bronson said Hibbs was respectful to everybody, always called people by their title, and could express love through poetry.

“This short, fat guy will always be tall in my memory,” Bronson said as he tried to keep from crying.

Prior to the funeral, a procession, complete with police cars and fire engines, made the trek from Oak Harbor. Once the procession arrived in Coupeville, Hibbs got one last trip through town as it went down Broadway, onto Coveland, up Main Street and to the high school.

In addition to being a deputy marshal, Hibbs was also popular with the youth in the area.

“His role in the community was that of a mentor to literally hundreds of kids in the community,” said Celebrant Linda Haddon.

Hibbs would often visit the high school where he would talk with students during lunch time. Several Tae kwon do students reminisced about their experiences with Hibbs.

The service was a celebration of Hibbs’ life and included some of his favorite music, most poignantly “Wind Beneath My Wings” which was the song Billy Ray and Jeanine danced to when they were married nearly 14 years ago.

Billy Ray leaves three children, Tyler, Justin and Nicole.

Photographs highlighting his life as a police officer, instructor and family man where on display in the gym lobby before and after the service.

Hibbs had been a deputy marshal since 1997. Before that, he enjoyed a 10-year career in the Navy where he served in Desert Storm. His last posting brought him to Whidbey Island where he was a part of Navy security.

He started studying tae kwon do about seven years ago. He eventually earned his second degree black belt and became an instructor at Woodward’s.

“He was a very tough guy with a very soft heart,” said owner Greg Woodward during the service. “I don’t see one face that he didn’t teach. These are all a part of him,” he said as he pointed to the tae kwon do students.

As the service ended, all in attendance filed up to the front and placed their hands on Hibbs’ casket to say one final goodbye.

With the service complete, Hibbs had one more trip to take. On Tuesday, his remains were transported to Wichita Falls, Texas, where he was born. He will be buried at Crestview Memorial Cemetery in Wichita Falls.

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