PLYMOUTH, Minn. -- It all began with a library book. John Weist was in the fifth grade when he stumbled on the picture book about the Minnesota State Patrol.
On Saturday, as he is laid to rest, the 22-year-old Plymouth man will be honored as the trooper he so badly wanted to become.
"I believe he will be at peace with what he accomplished and I believe his family will be at peace too," said Trooper Tiffani Nielson, John's advisor with the State Patrol Explorer program.
Weist's bone cancer was diagnosed at age 15, just a few weeks after he joined the Explorer program, designed to give teens an opportunity to explore a law enforcement career.
Six months later, in an attempt to stop the cancer, Weist's right leg was amputated. His mother still recalls, "That was the first thing he said when he knew he was going to lose his leg, 'Does this mean I can't be a trooper?'"
Despite the loss of his leg and five reoccurrences of the cancer, Weist stayed active with the Explorer program and often toured the state with his dad, snapping pictures of squad cars and visiting with troopers at State Patrol district offices from Rochester to Thief River Falls. "We probably have 5,000 pictures," said Kevin Weist as he shuffled through his son's photos.
Last spring John Weist joined the cadets for several days at the State Patrol Academy. On graduation day John walked across the stage to thunderous applause as an honorary member of the State Patrol's 52nd class.
As recently as last month Weist went out on a ride-along with Trooper Nielson. Weak from his advancing cancer, Weist needed help getting in and out of the squad car. Yet he smiled frequently and helped write citations as Nielson did speed enforcement on Highway 169 in Shakopee.
"He embodies the core values of the State Patrol, and that's just who he is," said Neilson.
Nielson and many of the other troopers Weist emulated are expected for his funeral Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth. Weist's fellow Explorers and their advisors will serve as pallbearers, State Troopers will provide the honor guard, and a procession of squad cars will escort Weist's body from the church in Plymouth to the cemetery in Bloomington.
"In a very unusual way, John has gotten everything he's ever wanted," said Jennifer Weist, "and that means the world to us."
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