Brad Garafola was killed last Sunday

By Adam Carlson and Stephanie Petit
Updated July 24, 2016 01:45 PM
East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office via AP

East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola should have been returning from vacation with his wife.

Instead, on Saturday, his friends and family gathered for his funeral, to say goodbye to the “boisterous” spirit who was slain, along with two other officers, in an attack last week on Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The funeral for Garafola, 45, was held Saturday afternoon at the Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, with a visitation preceding and a funeral processional following from the church to the funeral home.

Thousands of people, including law enforcement officers from across the country, lined up for miles along the procession route on Airline Highway, according to The Advocate.

His wife wrote in the funeral program that Garafola was her soulmate, rock and best friend. His children called him “superman.”

Garafola’s brother-in-law, Jaye Cooper, spoke of Garafola’s willingness to help others in need.

“Taking care of other people was just, quite simply, what Brad did,” Cooper said.

Some family members wept as Garafola’s coffin was closed and was covered with an American flag.

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“There’s a big hole now in our family,” Mary Ellen Wells, Garafola’s mother-in-law, told PEOPLE earlier this week. “I can’t even express how much pain we are all in.”

“He was a great provider for his wife and children,” Wells said. “It’s very surreal. If they’re a police officer, you always have that fear that your husband or your son or your brother won’t come home. Until it happens to you, you can’t really relate.”

With more than two decades of service as a deputy, Wells said Garafola had four children, ranging in age from 7 to 21.

He was working an extra shift that fatal Sunday, before he died, Wells said.

“My daughter was to meet him … they were going on vacation today, so they were having something done with her car,” Wells said. They were heading for Florida.

“At 7:48, she texted him and she went to go meet him. He said he would wait for her,” Wells said. “He was in plain clothes but he carries his gun and his vest. When she got there, she couldn’t get through. The streets were all blocked off. She called me, crying. We had to wait to hear about him.”

Garafola was a “wonderful man,” Wells told PEOPLE.

“He did anything and everything for people,” Wells tells PEOPLE. “He didn’t know the word ‘No.’ If you asked him for help, he helped. His heart was huge. He loved his family. When he was off the job, he was outside in his shed. He built things for his family to enjoy. He couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone who knew him.”

Funerals continue for the three slain officers in Baton Rouge: In addition to Garafola’s service, police officer Mathew Gerald was laid to rest Friday and the funeral for officer Montrell Jackson is scheduled for Monday.