The funeral procession reached St. Monica Catholic Church late Monday morning. The sounds of the bagpipes accompanied the casket.
Hundreds of Chicago police officers attended to salute the casket of Officer Francis as it arrived. The officers lined up along a more than 7-mile route to pay their last respects to a man whose former district commander described him as the ultimate family man and cop.
"He always went home to his family. He was like number two in seniority in the district. He could have had any watch he wanted, but he took the midnights. He went in the wagon. He was a quintessential wagon man. When the police need help, they called the wagon, and Rick and his partners were always there for you," said Retired Police Commander George Rosebrock.
He chose to work the night shift so he could be home during the day to tend to one of his stepdaughter's special needs.
Officer Francis was shot and killed early Wednesday while responding to a disturbance on a CTA bus. Forty-five-year-old Robin Johnson, a homeless woman known for occasionally taking refuge at the 19th district station, is charged with taking the officer's gun away and shooting him. The man who survived the Vietnam War in a Navy swift boat and patrolled the Cabrini Green housing project during its most dangerous time, died just two years before retirement.
"He was funny. He was a real funny guy. He loved animals. We were always pulling over, [and he was saying] 'Let me pet the doggy.' He loved Basset hounds. He loved his family. That was the biggest thing that's going to hurt," the Chicago Police Department's Norm Knutson said.
"There are people that were here that Rick coached in Little League and that he grew up with. He's a good man. He was a very, very good man. The city can't afford to lose good people like this," Rosebrock said.
Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis were expected to speak during Monday's service.
Francis is survived by his wife of ten years, Deborah, and two stepdaughters. Instead of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the officer's funeral, friends said Monday that Francis would not have wanted people to go through so much trouble. That was just the type of man that he was.
Francis was a quiet, unassuming, occasional jokester who most definitely wanted no part of the spotlight. Even when his family asked if he wanted a 60th birthday party, he said, "No way."
But Francis was also very devoted to his family and to his job. He was remembered Monday as a hardworking policeman uninterested in accolades, concerned only with getting the job done.
"He was a lifesaver for guys when he arrived on scene, bringing a wagon, taking care of a problem, giving a place where they could hold prisoners. He defined what it is to be a soldier and what it is to be a police officer," said Weis.
Francis shunned the spotlight, didn't take himself too seriously and suggested others might be advised to do the same. But he was always there to answer the call, and as one of his daughters said during the service Monday, he was a stand-up Dad.
"Rick taught me to always keep my head up even when the lows were at their lowest. He became my best friend. One question I know, if he were here right now, he'd ask, 'Isn't life great?'" said Amanda Kmic, stepdaughter.