In his 35-year state police career, Trooper Thomas Devlin patrolled every highway in eastern Massachusetts.
In the Merrimack Valley, the late Devlin is also fondly remembered for trying to keep new drivers safe.
In uniform and on his own time, Devlin visited classes at the Methuen Auto School and talked to prospective teen drivers about the rules of the road.
“He spoke about the need to watch out for first responders in the road ... to move over,” recalled Nancy Reardon of Methuen, a driving school instructor.
She also worked with Devlin at the Lawrence Registry of Motor Vehicles, where he gave new drivers their licensing road tests.
Reardon struggles with Devlin’s sad, tragic death. The trooper, 58, died last week from injuries he suffered in July 2018 when he was hit by an oncoming car after making a traffic stop on Route 3 in Billerica.
“How ironic is it he was hit by someone? ... It is just horrible,” said Reardon, who described Devlin as a devoted husband and father, and an all-around great person.
“He was very by the book but kind and compassionate. He always talked about his family,” said Reardon, who worked at the Lawrence RMV from 2000 to 2015.
In addition to his wife, Nancy, Devlin is survived by his four children, Matthew, Rachel, Paul and Hannah.
“I remember when Hannah was born. He couldn’t wait to show me the pictures of her,” Reardon recalled.
Linda Lavallee of Methuen previously owned Methuen Auto School with her husband, Ron. She said Devlin “talked to every class we had.”
“I knew him as a one of the good guys — respectful to everyone no matter the situation when you found yourself interacting with him,” she said.
“He just left the impression of a truly stand-up man,” she added. “I was driving and I heard he had passed on the radio and I was in disbelief.”
Lavallee said she was very sad for his wife and family and “for the public he served because he truly cared and listened to people.”
“Honest and fair, he held himself to a standard we should all aspire to,” she said.
On the afternoon of July 26, 2018, Devlin was outside his cruiser on a traffic stop on Route 3 when he was struck by car driven by Kevin Francis of Haverhill.
Francis was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, and failure to move over for an emergency vehicle. His case is pending in Lowell District Court and it’s unclear if further charges will be filed in the wake of Devlin’s death.
Devlin was surrounded by his family when he died Sept. 3 from the injuries he suffered two years earlier. He had undergone many surgeries.
He was a member of the 66th Recruit Training Troop. He graduated from the State Police Academy in 1985. For much of his career, Devlin was assigned to the state police barracks in Concord. But he also worked out of the Andover barracks and the Lowell and Lawrence Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Fellow troopers said Devlin was moral and always took his oath as a state trooper seriously.
During his lengthy career, Devlin “was responsible for saving multiple lives, and has received countless accolades and honors to commend his performance,” according to his obituary. “However, as close friends and family know, his job was far from the top of the list of reasons why he was an incredible man of God, husband, father and citizen. Tommy, as he was affectionately called, was the model of selflessness and sacrifice.”
Devlin’s wake will be held Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Nichols Funeral Home, 187 Middlesex Ave. (Route 62), in Wilmington.
His funeral is Friday at noon in the softball field behind Wilmington High School at 159 Church St. The number of mourners allowed onto the field will be in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 capacity guidelines, according to state police.
Weather permitting, there will be a state police air wing flyover at the field at the end of the ceremony.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.