WAYLAND, Mich. -- Michigan State Police are mourning the loss of another one of their own.
Trooper Ray Hoffman of the Wayland Post died Tuesday morning after a long stay in the hospital for heart complications.
Kent County Sheriff's Department Deputy Jason Wiersma, who first met Hoffman 20 years ago when he was in the state police Explorer Program, says he's tried to model his career in a way that would make his friend proud.
Wiersma has been a K-9 officer with the sheriff's department for four years. He says he wouldn't be there if it wasn't for Hoffman.
"Ray was very instrumental in my life," Wiersma said. "At a young age, I was 16 and I joined the Michigan State Police Explorer Program when I was in high school. Ray was one of my advisers."
Hoffman had more than 20 years of experience at the Wayland MSP Post.
"He's going to be very, very missed by the people in Allegan County where he worked," Wiersma said.
Hoffman was hospitalized in March with heart complications after having a heart attack six years ago. Before that, he battled Hodgkin's lymphoma on two separate occasions.
It was his resilience that inspired Wiersma on a daily basis. Since meeting Trooper Hoffman, he says he's carried a piece of him every day.
"Before I left, Ray gave me something that I still have now. It's a card that he laminated; it has a picture of him on it, and on the back it reads 'Jason, hope you look at this ugly mug and laugh yourself into a better day. Remember: that which does not kill us only serves to make us stronger. Hang in there. -Ray.' And I still keep it with me in my pocket now."
It's a loss that's hitting the community hard. Wiersma says Hoffman was a model trooper, and one that will never be forgotten.
Hoffman was 46 years old and leaves behind a wife and three children. He'll be laid to rest Saturday at Saint Sebastian Catholic Church in Byron Center.