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Honoring An Officer's Life, Artfully Lived

Thor Soderberg and Mazen Istanbouli were the cop and the prof.

Mr. Istanbouli, a professor of political science at DePaul University, is blind. He is also a tri-athlete, who has been guided when he runs, swims and cycles by Thor Soderberg, another tri-athlete and a Chicago police officer.

Officer Soderberg was matched up with Professor Istanbouli through the C Different Foundation, a group that assists blind athletes. They became a team, sharing challenge, fatigue and exhilaration as they trained and competed in triathlons.

"Swimming in the lake, riding bikes along the lakefront, running — we spent hours together," Mazen Istanbouli said. "We talked about everything. The more I knew Thor, the more I realized what a great human being he was. He always said, 'I want you to get a medal.' He always thought of others before himself."

This week, Officer Thor Soderberg was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Chicago police academy at 61st and Racine, where he was an instructor.

A 24-year-old man with a history of drugs, crime and mental derangement has been charged with his murder, and with shooting at a man who was sitting on his porch across the street, and the police officers who ran into the streets when they heard shots. The alleged assailant was wounded in the abdomen by officers, and is recovering in a hospital.

Thor Soderberg was 43. His wife, Jennifer Loudon, is a social worker in the Chicago public schools. She has released a statement urging people who say they want to memorialize her husband to do so by doing something for others, like her husband.

"If you have the opportunity to do something and change someone's life for the better, do it," she wrote. "Start by taking care of every child."

It's been a week that might make you wonder about some of the lives that capture attention in the news. There's the young actress who sobbed in court because she hasn't shown up for her alcohol rehab classes. Or the trio of athletes, who already earn more money in just a few months than police officers, nurses or teachers will earn in their lifetimes, signing bigger new contracts.

Thor Soderberg seemed to have lived a truly artful, useful life. And we hear about him only when he's killed.

Most of the young recruits in Thor Soderberg's class will graduate from the academy next week. They will receive their diplomas in their dress blues, then go out to patrol the streets, which they know, more keenly than ever now, can be dangerous, mean and unpredictable: That's why they’re needed out there. Thor Soderberg's death — and his graceful and generous life — has already taught them both the nicest and hardest lessons.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small