BRIGHTON, Mich. (WOOD) — As we get closer to the holidays, these days can become difficult reminders of loss. Memories of loved ones who are no longer here as we cherish those we still do have. 

A Brighton woman created a gift for the family of fallen Michigan State Trooper Trooper Caleb Starr, inspired by her own connection to state police. 

Mackenzie Gilmer never had a close relationship with Trooper Starr when he was alive, let alone his two young daughters. When he was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year, Gilmer knew she had to find a way to help his children this holiday season by giving them something they can always cling to and remember their father.

A courtesy photo of Caleb Starr.
A courtesy photo of Caleb Starr.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through and I know what’s been taken from them. I just felt like they needed something that they could look at and hold on to forever and know this is part of my dad’s life,” Gilmer said. “It’s going be an everyday challenge for them and it’s gonna be terrible and I feel so overwhelmed for them. I mean I think that’s been the hardest thing this whole time is knowing these kids are going to miss out on so much life. Even the smallest things in life, they’re not going to have their father for.”

Two bears, one for each of Starr’s daughters who now find themselves suddenly fatherless, but never alone. 

“I hope these girls know they have a very very strong community behind them. I’ve never met a more tight-knit group than the MSP,” Gilmer said. 

The sense of family MSP offers is something Gikmer herself has come to lean on in times of stress. Her own father is an MSP trooper. Though she did not lose her father, she relates to the little girls, only five and three years old because she feared she would lose her dad. 

To help, she had bears made from her father’s old MSP uniform at Little Daisy Memory Bears in a similar way to bears her father gave her as a child to comfort her. 

“I basically was like, do you think it would be OK if dad, you could grab me some old uniforms in your closet or you could get me some like I really need it to be the MSP uniforms. So from head to toe these bears were the shirt material, the pockets, everything, the pants had the little lines on them, everything was to a T,” Gilmer said. “You know, back then I was scared. I think that’s where my bears came into play. He knew I was losing sleep before he would come home. So it was kinda more of a safety thing for me, and there was just days where we’d have to talk through it more.”

Robbed of opportunities to ‘talk’ with their own father, these children will have to realize their father made the ultimate sacrifice, protecting and serving, giving arguably the greatest gift a father can give. 

“Oh my goodness, these kids had everything taken from them. I’ve been so lucky to not have to experience that but there have been times where I’ve thought about, oh my goodness, if my dad didn’t come home what would we do,” Gilmer said. “My heart breaks for them because me and my dad had the closest relationship, and we still are, he’s one of my best friends. You just kind of grow that bond growing up. I just hope that they know that their dad loved them so much.”

The woman prosecutors say crashed into trooper Starr’s cruiser, Thomasina Jones, was ordered to stand trial in Ionia County last week. Investigators say she was drunk and driving more than 100 mph at the time of the crash.