Cpl. Michael Middlebrook Elementary students, Lafayette police officers and family members gathered Friday to honor the life of Cpl. Michael Middlebrook and continue the slain officer’s legacy of compassion and action for others.

Hundreds of students gathered under the pavilion at Middlebrook Elementary, formerly Plantation Elementary, to honor their school’s namesake. On Oct. 1, 2017, Middlebrook was shot and killed while responding to a call at a convenience store on Moss Street. His accused killer, Ian Howard, awaits trial.

Middlebrook is survived by his wife, Adrienne; stepdaughters, Bianca Washington and Chloe Siner; daughter, Violet; and his parents, Herman Middlebrook and Frances Von Hof.

Bianca spoke at the memorial, recalling her stepfather’s “obnoxious laugh and ear-to-ear smile … and heavy, loud work boots” tromping down the hallway. The teenager lamented not having another day with him or having the opportunity to say she loved him.

“It’s been two years now, but every day feels like Oct. 1.,” she said.

A beloved family man, Cpl. Middlebrook was also a man of the community and servant leader. Following his good example is the best way Middlebrook Elementary students and Lafayette residents can honor him, Friday’s speakers said.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them,” fourth-grader Calia LaFrance said at the start of the event, quoting President John F. Kennedy.

Cpl. Middlebrook was all about putting his compassion into action, his friends and family said.

His parents, Frances Von Hof and Herman Middlebrook, said since he was a small child Michael would ask if he could wrap his toys to give to other children in the neighborhood or if the family could offer rides to people walking alongside the highway.

He never changed, Von Hof said.

Officer Cody Richard, a fellow Lafayette officer and friend of Cpl. Middlebrook’s, recalled patrolling with Cpl. Middlebrook when the men were called about two homeless people staying in a hotel room without permission. Instead of arresting them for trespassing, Cpl. Middlebrook paid for their room for the night.

Other times, he gave away food, clothes and shoes intended for himself and his family to others who needed them more, Richard said.

“He possessed more love than his heart could handle, so he would pour it out on others…. He loved everyone just because that’s what his heart told him to do,” he said.

Cpl. Middlebrook’s parents said they’re honored and overwhelmed by the community’s continued support and enduring love for their son. Von Hof and Herman Middlebrook said they’re glad the students at Middlebrook Elementary can look to their son as a role model and positive example of how to live.

“By having the school named after him, they learn that there was someone in the community that was compassionate and gave a lot to the community to make it better,” Herman Middlebrook said.

“I’m very proud to say that Michael Middlebrook is my son,” Von Hof said.

Many of the Middlebrook Elementary students wore blue and black shirts Friday as part of a districtwide dress-out day to fundraise for The Middlebrook Foundation, a non-profit established in Middlebrook’s honor.

Family members and friends wore Middlebrook Foundation shirts at the memorial, with Psalm 3:5-6 quoted on the back: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The scripture verse is the last thing Cpl. Middlebrook shared on the phone with his wife the night he was killed, she said.

Adrienne Middlebrook said she wants to keep her husband’s legacy and memory alive through positive acts in the community. It’s the way he lived his life, and that shouldn’t end with his death, she said.

Adrienne Middlebrook said she’s focusing the foundation’s work on serving the homeless and economically disadvantaged, two groups her husband regularly served. The foundation is working to feed the homeless and host a Christmas give back, which will include providing toys and Christmas gifts to families that can’t afford them and holiday meal, she said.

Cpl. Middlebrook’s widow said she wants to spread her husband’s good will as far as possible.

“I hope it continues to grow and goes beyond just Louisiana,” Adrienne Middlebrook said.

Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com