VISALIA, Calif. -- More than 100 law enforcement officers stood at attention and saluted the casket of Tulare County Correctional Deputy Jeremy Meyst at a memorial service Monday.
Meyst, 31, died on Christmas Eve when the prisoner transport van he was driving from Porterville to Visalia crashed in a solo-vehicle accident in the middle of the night.
Meyst is survived by his wife, Sarah, of Visalia, and their sons Joshua, 10, and Eric, 7.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris was among hundreds of mourners at the Visalia First Assembly of God Church.
"Your father is a hero," Harris said. "He will always be remembered."
Meyst, a nine-year veteran of the sheriff's department, had a friendly personality that endeared him to his fellow officers, Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said.
"Even the inmates liked him," Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux said he once ran into Meyst while shopping for eyeglasses. Meyst told him that he was "too young" for eyeglasses, to which Boudreaux responded that they improved his appearance, he said.
" 'Well, don't pick those, you don't look good in them,' " Meyst stated, who then helped him select a better pair, Boudreaux said.
Meyst got everyone's attention when he lost 130 pounds by working out and changing his diet, Boudreaux said.
Meyst was a 2001 graduate of Mount Whitney High School and played football as an offensive lineman.
His childhood friend, Scott Thiessen, said Meyst was on the team that won the annual Cowhide game against Redwood High, a traditional rivalry.
After the victory, Meyst stopped at the front office so often to view the Cowhide trophy that "the secretaries said they'd charge him admission to look at the trophy," Thiessen said.
In letters read aloud from the dais, one of his sons wrote, "Thanks for wrestling with us and letting us win sometimes."
During graveside services, Boudreaux presented an American flag to Meyst's wife and plaques to his sons displaying their father's badge.
Neighbor Adrian Anaya, 20, told reporters Meyst was devoted to his family.
"He was a nice guy, all about work, his family and his wife," Anaya said. "He was always laughing."
Meyst attended College of the Sequoias, where he met Sarah, and worked at Long's and Walgreens drug stores before getting hired at the sheriff's department.
The accident happened about 2:30 a.m. on a rural road. It's still under investigation.
According to news reports, Meyst was driving north on Road 204, also known as Spruce Road, when he lost control near the Friant-Kern Canal, crashed and was ejected. Two inmates being transported sustained minor injuries.
"He was just doing his job and he was good at it," Boudreaux said. "There's two young boys over there that lost their dad. Keep your prayers for the family."
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