GODFREY - Todd Bowers went to his final resting place with dozens of his friends in tow.
Tow truck drivers from across the region rallied Tuesday for the final farewell to one of their own.
Bowers, the longtime operator of Bowers Towing, was remembered as a "family man" and "successful businessman" by those who knew him. The 52-year-old Godfrey man died Thursday of an apparent heart attack.
Starting about 10 a.m., the first tow truck, a heavy-duty boom truck, pulled into the yard of Bowers Towing, 6204 Godfrey Road. A few minutes later, another truck, a "roll-back," pulled in.
A few minutes later came another and then another. Within 30 minutes, the yard was full of tow trucks from across the region.
The drivers got out of their rigs and gathered in clusters, waiting for the funeral procession of one of their own.
Family and friends filed into the sanctuary of St. Ambrose Church to pay their final respects. The pews were filled with those saying goodbye.
"Todd was an outstanding person," the Rev. Steve Pohlman said. "As good as you get."
Pohlman, who officiated at the service, said everyone had to trust that God took Bowers into safekeeping.
"We'll see him again one day," he said. "Our separation is not a permanent one, but a temporary one."
He said even though Bowers was taken too early in life, it was part of God's plan.
"There is no detour in dying and the expiration date only God can see," Pohlman said.
Ruth Guntren, Todd's mother, said her son both arrived and left this world early. She said her son was born two months premature and died too young.
Bowers took over the towing business in 1985 after his father, Nelson Bowers, died, also at a young age, 49. The Bowers Towing operation has offices in Godfrey and Wood River and operates around the clock.
Todd Bowers was a dedicated son, husband, father and grandfather. He earned his wings as an Eagle Scout, enjoyed cooking for others and had an affinity for BMX racing.
Bowers believed in giving back to his community. He served as a volunteer firefighter for more than 15 years with the Godfrey Fire Protection District and served as president of its board.
While hymns were sung and scriptures were read inside the church, diesel engines hummed as the drivers waited for the procession to pass by the towing company. Nearly three dozen tow trucks created an "honor guard" as the drivers headed south on Godfrey Road to St. Patrick's Cemetery, where Bowers was laid to rest.
"It's a sad day for the towing world," said Steve Kainz, owner of Trickey's Service Inc. in Wood River.
Kainz was asked to put together the tribute honoring a man "way too young to die."
"Todd and I had known each other for a long time, and we kind of had this love/hate relationship," he said. "I was floored and honored when I was asked to put together the procession."
Kainz contacted towing companies within a 100-mile radius in both Illinois and Missouri to take part in the event.
"It was really impressive," Kainz said. "So many people gave up their time. They really went above and beyond."