Kazzie Portie and Lt. Eric Ellison embrace after Portie graduated high school on Saturday. Last week, Ellison broke the news to Portie that his parents were killed by a drunk driver. (Photo: Lindsey Fruge/lcmbearfacts/Instagram)
A high school senior whose parents died tragically last week graduated over the weekend. And though his mother and father couldn’t be there, the police officer who broke the news of the parents’ death stood onstage and embraced the graduate after he received his diploma.
Riley Portie, 54, and Emily Portie, 50, were killed on May 24 when their motorcycle was hit by a drunk driver. Though the Orange, Tex., couple had five children, only their youngest, Kazzie, still lived at home. “I’d just gotten off from work, and I had called my parents a couple of times to see where they were,” Kazzie Portie tells Yahoo Parenting. “Ten minutes after the call, Lieutenant [Eric] Ellison showed up to the house to break the news.”
Lt. Eric Ellison attended Kazzie Porter’s graduation since the high school senior’s parents couldn’t be there. (Photo: Eric Ellison/Facebook)
Portie, who received his diploma from Little Cypress–Mauriceville High School on Saturday, said graduation was the thing his parents were most excited about lately. “I know my parents were very proud of me. Graduation is all they talked about the past month, to me or my siblings, about how excited they were to see me graduate,” Portie says. When he mentioned graduation to Ellison, the Lieutenant promised to be there. “Of course everyone tells you a lot of things to comfort you when you’re in a time of distress. But he seemed sincere when he told me he’d be there. He was more genuine than us just being another ‘case.’”
And when Portie received his diploma, his first hug came from Ellison, who was waiting for him onstage. He also received rousing applause and a standing ovation from the audience. His older brother, Blake Henning, shared a video of the emotional moment on Facebook, in a post that’s been viewed nearly 170,000 times. “This was such a special moment,” Henning wrote on Facebook. “Thank you class of 2015 for making this such a memorable occasion for our family. So proud of you @kazz418 I love you so much. Throughout all of this you have been so strong and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being such a great brother. I am so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know mom and bubba are so proud of you. Again, love you brother and thank you for being who you are.”
Riley and Emily Portie were killed by a drunk driver on May 24. (Photo: Facebook/Blake Henning)
Henning, who is a firefighter, also expressed his gratitude to Ellison. “Words can’t express how thankful our family is of you. You are the definition of a great [law enforcement officer]. Thank you brother for all you do and all the others who worked this accident,” he wrote. “I wish more stories like this made the head lines of my brothers and sisters in blue.”
Portie says the support he received at graduation was overwhelming. “It took a lot to hold the tears back and try to walk across the stage,” he says. “To feel the love and support of the crowd, it meant a lot to me, especially when I saw the Lieutenant standing there across the stage. It meant a lot.”
Ellison, who is being celebrated online, posted on Facebook on Sunday about the attention he’s received since the graduation. “I just want everybody to remember that through this tragedy, this was ALL about Kazzie and his day to shine. I just did what I would want someone to do if I had left my girls early,” Ellison, who has a daughter who graduated high school on Friday night, said. “The LC-M Class of 2015 and the LC-M community made that happen. Please keep ALL the Portie family in your prayers and they go forward from this tragedy. God Speed Kaz, you’ve got a great future ahead of you.”
While not having his parents at his graduation was a blow, Portie says they will be his the inspiration as he continues his studies. “I’m not going to use all this an excuse to go down a bad road, I’m using this as an excuse to make my parents proud,” he says. He plans to start applying to colleges to enroll in the spring, and hopes to study chemical engineering or medical sales.
And Portie expects the future will bring a continued relationship with Ellison. “I know I will check back with him and I’m sure he will do the same,” he says. “He’s a nice person and I hope to keep a friendship with him.”