LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Friends and family of a Lee's Summit police officer who recently lost his battle with cancer gathered Wednesday to honor his life at Legacy Christian Church.
Shawn Rath was just 44 years old. He died Saturday. He had been fighting the disease since he was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2015.
Rath had served in the military and law enforcement for more than 20 years. He was married and had an 8-year-old son named Patrick.
"Shawn’s life was dedicated to serving not only his country as a member of the United States Coast Guard but also serving his city as a police officer and detective for over ten years," Sgt. Chris Depue said.
When Fox 4 spoke with Sgt. Depue outside of the funeral, he said Rath was an amazing father and man dedicated to serving his community and nation.
"We’re here today to celebrate Shawn’s life, his life of service, and just everything he did not only for his nation but for his community," Sgt. Depue told Fox 4. "We feel like we want to share this with our community because they really embraced Shawn and his family during his battle and supported him through fundraising and words of encouragement." Watch his full interview with Fox 4 in the video player below.
FOX 4’s Shannon O’Brien met with Rath and his family just over a month ago. He said he first noticed a small bump on his ear, which was discovered to be melanoma. He was declared cancer free after surgery to remove the melanoma, but after 6 months, the cancer came back, invading Rath’s central nervous system, brain and spine.
The Lee’s Summit police officer spent the majority of his cancer battle working while getting treatments, until December, when the pain became too much and he had to step away from work. The transition from fighting crime to fighting cancer full-time was difficult transition for the 44-year-old who spent his entire career in law enforcement.
“Always taking care of somebody else. They need help, I want to be there,” Rath told FOX 4 in July. “To receive the help in our home for my son, for my wife, for myself, it is very humbling and it is very hard.”
Rath said the community and his fellow officers had been a great support during his battle, but he said he was fighting mostly for his wife Kari and 8-year-old son Patrick.
Rath’s wife Kari said her husband’s cancer was caused by the sun. She hopes Rath’s story can be a warning for others to wear sunscreen and have annual body checks.
“He is the one that is fighting more than anybody else could fight,” Kari said. “A lot of it is that internal strength to keep going, because it is easy to give up.”
Rath's passing comes at a trying time for the Lee's Summit Police Department, which just saw the death of another officer, Thomas Orr III, in a shooting at popular Westport restaurant Californos. Orr, who was off duty at the time, is believed to be an innocent bystander in a dispute that broke out on the restaurant patio.
"It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us," Sgt. Depue said. "Actually, if we look backwards, we lost Officer Rob Hurt in November around Thanksgiving. So in less than a year’s time, we’ve lost three of our closest friends."