Robert Story fondly remembers the playful arguments he had with his late wife, Brooke Jones-Story, about the couple’s potbellied pigs.
He would often say the two pigs, who they had rescued years earlier, had faces “only a mother could love.”
“Brooke would look at me and say, ‘Well, I’m their mom,'” Story said. “The nuts and bolts of it, that was Brooke. Every one of those animals out there meant something to her and she loved every one of them.”
Jones-Story, 34, an Illinois State Police trooper who was hit and killed by a semitrailer on March 28, left behind not only her family and friends, but a farm full of animals she had rescued from injury, abuse and neglect.
In addition to the pigs, the couple permanently cared for four donkeys, four horses, 13 chickens, a rooster, and a plethora of cats and dogs. Their 28-acre farm in rural Stockton is a satellite location for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, an organization that rescues donkeys and houses the animals until they are adopted.
“No animal will ever be killed coming from this farm, and no animal will ever be sold coming from this farm,” Story said. “Everything we have here is rescued and everything we send out of here will be rescued; and if it doesn’t, it will stay here until its days are done. I plan on keeping that dream alive for her.”
Story, 53, toured the rolling hills of his property — he and his wife called it “a little piece of Heaven” — this week to offer a glimpse into the life the couple shared since marrying in 2012. Story, a retired Illinois State Police master sergeant, met his wife at the scene of a crash in 2008.
He said he is ready to speak publicly because he wants people to know who his wife was beyond her profession.
He described Jones-Story as a fierce competitor who loved working out, riding motorcycles, caring for animals, and being a daughter, sister, stepmom, grandmother and wife.
She enjoyed sports and was a star volleyball player at Warren High School and in college. Before moving to Stockton, the couple lived in Rockton and had Rockford IceHogs season tickets.
“The cop in her was her job,” he said. “This is what she loved, and the animals is what she loved. I wanted that story told.
“I didn’t want people to think of her as just a police officer. She was so much more.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by one of Jones-Story’s closest friends, Callie Worsfold, who met her in the Illinois State Police Academy. She said Jones-Story had a contagious laugh, a quick wit and a smile that could light up a room.
“As life continued on after the academy, she became an aunt, per se, to my kids as they were being born,” Worsfold said. “She had a love for my kids that would have made you think they were her own. She spoiled them, and that’s what she did since the day they were born.”
Story often still refers to his relationship with Jones-Story in the present tense. The practice emphasizes his belief that her spirit is still with him.
“There’s 19 years difference between Brooke’s and my age,” he said. “When you meet your soulmate you know that. That’s what I did.”
He intends to keep rescuing animals and has plans to double the size of one of the barns on the property. That was one of his wife’s goals. And keeping her dreams alive ensures her memory never fades.
“This should have never happened, but I want her memory to be kept alive,” Story said. “No matter what, she will never be gone.”