LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - March 29 will mark two years since LMPD Officer Nick Rodman was killed in the line of duty.
A suspect was drunk and driving away from a shooting when he slammed into Rodman’s cruiser.
March is a hard month for his family and friends.
“It’s been such a devastating time,” Nick’s wife, Ashley told WAVE 3 News in her first interview since the tragedy. “The absence is always there, everyone in our family is feeling it, our friends are feeling it.”
But this anniversary, Ashley Rodman said she wants to celebrate Nick’s life, not just focus on the way he died. And she’s doing it in a way that will not only honor and cement his legacy, but also will prove how much her husband loved his hometown.
“He loved everything about this city,” Ashley said.
From the UofL Cardinals, to the Portland streets he patrolled, Rodman lived and breathed Louisville.
He was a young husband who couldn’t wait to be a dad.
“We quickly wanted to add babies fast,” she said. “I always loved Nick, but watching him become a dad to Mason was probably like one of the most beautiful things.”
Their second child, Ellie Jean, arrived soon after.
“When we found out we were having a girl, he was so excited,” Ashley Rodman said. "I mean, I think the minute we found out we were having a girl, she already had him wrapped around her little finger.
“We had this complete family, and it just got ripped away so fast. It’s, it’s really devastating.”
In the darkest moments, it was the very people Nick Rodman wanted to serve who showed his family they loved him right back.
Ashley keeps two “treasure” boxes in her home. They are filled with mementoes, gifts and cards full of kind words from strangers.
“Our hearts are broken for yours,” Ashley read from one of the cards. “May God comfort you in your daily life and know that God loves you.”
She still gets letters. She reads every one.
“Having so much love from people who didn’t even know me or Nick and how they’re like, encouraging me to, you know, keep fighting, and keep going, like, it means, you know, the world to me,” Ashley said.
She’s kept almost everything. From a candle used in one of the vigils, to fliers promoting the various fundraisers organized in his honor. She even kept a receipt of when someone paid for her meal, and treasures a picture of when firefighters showed up to her house to clear her driveway of snow.
“I’ll never forget the kids holding up the signs as we drove down the street during Nick’s procession, you know, the ribbons on Southern Parkway, the blue ribbons,” Ashley recalled. “They’re still on Southern Parkway. My son still talks about the ribbons.”
“As devastating as this is that Nick’s not here, you know, I think that he would look at the city that he loved soo much and just say thank you for taking care of my wife and my kids.”
The gratitude Ashley said she feels, and a need to honor Nick’s memory, led her to an idea she hadn’t publicly spoken about until now. With the support of her family and friends, Ashley decided to start The Nick Rodman Legacy Foundation.
“The whole reason why I even want to start this is because I’ve personally seen, you know, the importance of loving and supporting people in some of their darkest times,” she said.
From helping domestic violence victims, to the city’s homeless, Ashley said she hopes the non-profit will do what Nick vowed to do himself -- help people -- all while celebrating the man who loved life and faced it with kindness and laughter.
Now, the planning for the foundation begins. There are plans for events from golf scrambles, to concerts and everything in between.
“I want to kind of say ‘thank you’ for helping me, and now I’m going to do the same by helping someone else, you know, in their hard moments, and I don’t know if I’ll make a difference, but I’m going to try,” she said. “You can be sad and stay sad or you can be sad and do something about it.”
The Nick Rodman Legacy Foundation launched Wednesday.
If you would like to volunteer, donate or keep tabs on events, visit NickRodmanLegacyFoundation.org or write to:
Nick Rodman Legacy Foundation, PO Box 21065, Louisville KY 40221