LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The City of Lake Charles turned out in droves to mourn the loss of Joseph “Rock” Palermo III, the pilot who died tragically in a plane crash on Tuesday night.
The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office honored him in a fashion typically reserved for law enforcement, from his final goodbye in a last call message to a flyover during his service.
“Rock was a very humble person, and he wouldn’t want it all to be about him. But he deserved this and very much more,” says Calcasieu Parish Lieutenant Matthew Gibbs.
“It would mean the world to him that we were all here and showed him the respect that we showed him, and gave him the send off that we gave him,” says Deputy Carter Sittig.
Described as a hero and a man of courage to both his family and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, Palermo’s friends say his happiest place was in the clouds - flying planes. Palermo even spearheaded the aviation program for the department.
“Rock was always there and always there at times when the rest of us didn’t want to be there. Late at night, early in the morning, good weather and bad weather,” says Lieutenant Gibbs.
“When he first started it, he would always answer the phone ready to go - you know, jump in the plane,” says Deputy Sittig. “He was there whenever we needed him, whether it was an escapee or some kind of other project we were working. He was ready to go at any moment.”
Colleagues say his absence has left them with a burden, as Palermo was always willing to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Recovering after two hurricanes, going through everything we have to go through, Rock was one of those people, in any form or fashion, carried more than his share of the load,” says Lieutenant Gibbs. “It just makes the world that much harder without people like Rock.”
During the eulogy, the priest quoted Ronald Reagan’s speech from the day the Challenger exploded.
“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them nor the last time we saw them, this morning. As they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye, they slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”