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The widow of NJ State Police Trooper Frankie Williams accepts a posthumous degree on her husband's behalf. Phaedra Trethan

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CAMDEN — The emotions are mixed, Kimberly Williams admitted before accepting a master's degree from Rutgers University-Camden on her husband's behalf.

But the overwhelming emotion the young widow felt was pride at all Frankie Williams, a New Jersey State Police trooper killed in the line of duty in December, managed to accomplish in his short life.

"It's been an honor to have people commemorate him and pay tribute to him as a person," she said before the graduate commencement ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the BB&T Pavilion.

Fresh off a trip to Washington, D.C. for National Police Week (which includes a ceremony honoring police killed in the line of duty), Williams was joined by her father and other family members for the ceremony.

Williams, killed Dec. 5 in a head-on collision on Route 55 in Millville, was awarded a posthumous master's degree in criminal justice from the university, where he had also earned his bachelor's degree. 

The 31-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident, stationed at the state police's Port Norris barracks, had been working toward the degree at the university when he was killed in the collision that also claimed the life of Pittsgrove Township resident Lloyd Rudley.

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"I'm really proud of him; this is a great way to honor him," Kimberly Williams said Wednesday as graduates waited backstage in their caps and gowns on a warm, bright day. 

"He was always looking to be challenged, always setting goals and meeting those goals and he loved making his family proud," she added. 

"When he became a state trooper, we could see that he was just glowing with excitement to be able to share that with everyone. I think this is the next step for him; he knew that he was so close to finishing his degree and just to be able to share that with everyone, and the excitement of what his career held for the future as a state trooper and what would have come for us together."

More: SJ trooper killed in I-295 crash was dad

More: Cullen recalled as 'best guy'

Williams, she said, "was passionate about pursuing his education."

Trooper Sean Cullen, a Cinnaminson resident stationed at the Bellmawr barracks, was struck by a vehicle on the side of Interstate 295 on March 7, 2016 while responding to a car fire. Cullen's name was added to a memorial to fallen law enforcement officers at the Burlington County Public Safety Center in a ceremony Wednesday morning.

 

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes noted each trooper's respective contributions.

"Trooper Frankie Williams knew at a young age that he wanted a career in law enforcement and realized his dream of becoming a New Jersey State Trooper after receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University in Camden," Fuentes said.

"His goal of obtaining his master's degree from the university he loved was ultimately cut short due to his tragic passing. The New Jersey State Police would like to thank Rutgers University for posthumously awarding Trooper Frankie Williams his Master's Degree in Criminal Justice."

Fuentes called Cullen "an outstanding trooper who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of the State of New Jersey."

"This memorial will ensure that his life and legacy will always be remembered," he added.

“Some of today’s graduates and our faculty knew Frankie Williams. They know he was an engaging and talented student, as well as a leader among his peers," said Kriste Lindenmeyer, dean of Rutgers–Camden's School of Arts and Sciences. 

"Rutgers–Camden is so very proud of his service to our state," Lindenmeyer added. "We are honored that his wife is here today to accept his graduate degree from Rutgers University–Camden.”

Willams said that, since her husband's death, she's received support from family, friends and the law enforcement community. 

"The New Jersey State Police have a really great support network," she said, including Survivors of the Triangle, offering a variety of resources and assistance to those who've lost loved ones in the line of duty.

"Everyone is a phone call away, which is great, to know that there's always someone who's been through this, and to know that there's that support, is great to know."

 

Phaedra Trethan: (856) 486-2417; ptrethan@gannettnj.com

 

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