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By Alexandra Seltzer The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Boynton Beach police officer Joe Crowder couldn’t be there for his son Kaleb’s 5th-grade graduation. Joe Crowder died in December 2016 after suffering a heart attack while exercising.

But Joe Crowder’s brothers and sisters in uniform promised him they’d be there for his two sons, so when Kaleb looked at the audience Friday morning, he didn’t see his dad, but he saw nine of his dad’s former colleagues cheering him on.

“It meant everything to us to be there. We all felt like proud parents,” said Stephanie Slater, the police department’s spokeswoman who also attended Kaleb’s graduation. “We are so proud of the fine young man that Kaleb is and we know that Joe was smiling his giant smile this morning watching Kaleb, too.”

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?We promised Joe we would be here for all the major milestones. Can’t wait to watch Kaleb graduate 5th grade! #BBPD792 #bbpdpride ???????

Posted by Boynton Beach Police Department on Friday, May 25, 2018

Crowder worked for the police department for 14 years. He started as a community service officer, and became a canine officer in 2012. He partnered with police dog Daxxx and later Iro to track down criminals. Crowder also was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army reserves. He was 44 when he died.

The community, including the police department, has honored Crowder and his family since his death. The dog park off Congress Avenue near Renaissance Commons has been renamed Officer Joseph Crowder Park & Dog Park. The park also has a bronze statue of Daxxx.

Kaleb graduated from Northboro Elementary in West Palm Beach on Friday. Kaleb’s mother told the department about Kaleb’s graduation and the group surprised him, Slater said.

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Congratulations, Kaleb! We are so proud of you, and we know your dad is too. We love you. ??????#BBPD792

Posted by Boynton Beach Police Department on Friday, May 25, 2018

“In each and everyone of us, Joe was there,” Slater said.

She said throughout the graduation Kaleb peered back in the audience and smiled at them.

“When he was walking down the red carpet and he saw us his face just lit up,” Slater said. “He sat two rows in front of us and kept looking back at all of us. There were lots of hugs and smiles.”

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?It meant the world to us to watch you graduate 5th grade today. We promise to be there for all of your accomplishments….

Posted by Boynton Beach Police Department on Friday, May 25, 2018

©2018 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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