Trooper Tony Radulescu, who was killed during a traffic stop early Thursday, was a 16-year veteran of the State Patrol and a fixture in Bremerton-area communities.

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Trooper Tony Radulescu’s Facebook page hints at his sense of humor: He studied at “Hard Knox” and listed his occupation as “Secret Squirrel Agent,” an apparent reference to the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

A big-hearted man with a ready smile, Radulescu was known as “Trooper Tony” in the communities surrounding Bremerton, where he spent his entire 16-year career with the State Patrol.

“Tony was the epitome of a state trooper,” said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer. “He could handle problems with courage and he had those interpersonal skills that made everybody like him. He could write somebody a ticket and they would say, ‘Thank you.’ “

Radulescu, 44, who was fatally shot early Thursday during a traffic stop in the unincorporated community of Gorst, was planning to buy a vacation home in Glendale, Ariz., to be closer to his ailing father and his brother’s family.

“He was ‘Big Tony,’ and my daughter was ‘Little Toni.’ He was her favorite uncle,” the trooper’s sister-in-law, Mona Radulescu, said by phone Thursday morning before delivering the news to her 10-year-old daughter.

Radulescu was born in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, in August 1967, and immigrated to the U.S. with his father, Leslie, when he was 14, Mona Radulescu said. His mother, who remained in Romania, later remarried, as did Radulescu’s father.

According to Radulescu’s Facebook page, he graduated from Harrison High School in Harrison, N.J., in 1986 and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. He joined the Army and was stationed for a time in South Korea, said his sister-in-law, who is married to Radulescu’s younger brother, Mario.

He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and put down roots here after getting out of the service, she said.

“He was happy serving in the Army. He was so dedicated to it,” his sister-in-law said. As a trooper, “He was proud of his job,” she said.

Radulescu was also a decorated Army reservist, one friend said in an email to The Seattle Times.

Twice divorced, Radulescu is the father of Erick Radulescu, an Army medic stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Mona Radulescu said.

“He’s a really smart guy, a really beautiful guy, in and out,” his sister-in-law said of Radulescu, who spoke English, Romanian, Italian, Spanish and Korean.

In 2007, most of the Radulescu clan left the East Coast and moved to Arizona to be closer to “Big Tony,” who visited his family three times a year, Mona Radulescu said. He last visited at Thanksgiving and was planning a trip in March, she said.

“He was kind of the head [of the family]. Everybody who has troubles would call him,” and he would help them work out steps to deal with a financial problem or health crisis, Mona Radulescu said. “He was the brains to me. He was an awesome father, uncle, brother and friend. I don’t know if I will make another friend like him.”

Radulescu was dating a State Patrol dispatcher, she said.

In January, when Radulescu’s girlfriend, Gina Miller, changed her Facebook status from “single” to “in a relationship,” Radulescu playfully asked, “Anyone I know?”

On Thursday afternoon, Miller posted a message on Radulescu’s Facebook wall: “I want to thank all of you for your loving thoughts and prayers for my Tony. He was a one of a kind man and I loved him with all my heart. Please pray for him and keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Radulescu was “the best of the best” and saw police work as a calling, said Boyer, the Kitsap County sheriff.

“He was a totally positive person,” he said. “I never saw him without a smile on his face. Not once. No matter how bad it was.”

Radulescu was a well-known figure in local communities where he regularly made presentations to school kids, according to the Patrol.

“The entire community is hurting today,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said in a news release. “… Tony was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around, including me. I truly enjoyed working with him.”

During a news conference, Batiste said Radulescu “had a great personality, a real sense of humor.”

“It’s a very sad day for the Washington State Patrol,” the chief said. “He was a father and peer to many of us who was dearly loved …

“We’re all hurting. I’m hurting,” he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com