HILLSIDE, Ill. (WLS) -- Melrose Park said a tearful goodbye to one of its own on Wednesday.
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What appeared to be an endless stream of flashing lights paid tribute to a life of service lived by Melrose Park police officer Joseph Cappello, 55. His passing is the department's first COVID-related death.
"Joe was really a good guy," Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said. "He was very diligent about his job, but he also had a heart. He was really just a good guy. He took his job seriously."
During a Wednesday afternoon funeral in west suburban Hillside, the veteran law man was remembered as a hero dedicated to both his family and his community.
RELATED: Melrose Park police officer dies from coronavirus
Social distancing only allowed for immediate family to be present for the service, so fellow officers and other law enforcement quietly grieved in their cars.
Alexander Johnston, who knew Cappello, stood in the rain outside the cemetery for the entire procession out of respect for the 55-year-old officer.
"Everyone needs to know that they are not alone," Johnston said. "We didn't just lose one police officer from one department, we lost a police officer in the entire country."
Cappello's death is considered to be in the line of duty and the first in nearly three decades at the west suburban police department.
Coworkers say it may never be clear if Cappello contracted COVID-19 while on duty, but friends say he became ill about a month ago and was hospitalized before the complications from the virus finally claimed his life. Roughly a dozen other officers have tested positive for coronavirus since then.
Cappello had worked for the Melrose Park Police Department for two years after retiring from the Cook County Sheriff's Office, where he was a deputy for over 20 years.
Like he and his father before him, Cappello's son now works for the Chicago Police Department.
"I think this is a great tribute and we can't thank enough all the different towns that have come to help, especially the Chicago Police Department," Mayor Serpico said.
The mayor added that Officer Capello's death is a painful reminder of the dangers of COVID-19 as he continues to struggle to protect his police force and his community.
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