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Deputy Ronnie Smith: Service honors fallen officer

Family members read remarks in French and in English, during the memorial service for Deputy Ronnie Smith, Thursday, Dec. 22 at First Baptist Church of Jackson.

Family members read remarks in French and in English, during the memorial service for Deputy Ronnie Smith, Thursday, Dec. 22 at First Baptist Church of Jackson.

— Ronnie Smith was remembered last week as a giant of a man, whose size and stature was matched only by his love for his family, and for God.

During memorial services held at First Baptist Church of Jackson on Thursday, Dec. 22, friends, family members, colleagues who knew him and colleagues who didn’t, reflected on Smith’s life as a former basketball player, a family man, a law enforcement officer, and as a Christian.

Smith, 49, was killed Dec. 17 while responding to a fight call. The Butts County sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car reportedly dropped off the shoulder of Four Points Road at about 10:30 p.m., before veering back across the road, crashing into a stand of trees and killing Smith instantly.

He was the first deputy Butts County has lost in the line of duty, according to Sheriff Gene Pope.

“Ronnie is my friend, my brother, my fellow Christian,” Pope said during the memorial service, which was attended by members of law enforcement from throughout the state. “Ronnie was the kind of man you looked up to, but not for just the same obvious reason -- his height. It was because of his character.”

The six-foot, 10-inch Smith was a former basketball player who spent 19 years in pro leagues in South America and in Europe, where he met his wife, Sylvie Michele Allagnon.

Ronnie Smith, of McDonough, also leaves behind two teenage daughters, Sharon and Shanice.

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Deputy Ronnie Smith

“Saturday night, my heart was broken, as I know many of you have had the same feeling,” Pope said. “...The scar I have because of what happened Saturday will one day disappear, as will all our scars, and that is when we’ll all be together again.”

The Smith family’s pastor, the Rev. Steve Hill of Eastside Baptist Church, delivered the eulogy. During his remarks, he recalled the story of how Ronnie and Sylvie met and married while Ronnie was playing in France.

“Like something straight out of a romantic comedy movie, he goes into this bakery regularly to get his croissants to find a beautiful young woman he falls in love with, named Sylvie,” Hill said. “I asked Sylvie, ‘Tell me about the proposal.’ I mean this is in France, and they’re young. This is going to be a tremendously romantic proposal over candlelight.”

Hill said he quickly learned the proposal didn’t quite fit the romantic-comedy mold, but nothing about Ronnie fit a mold either.

“She said, ‘No, it was over the phone.’ He was traveling and playing basketball and couldn’t wait any longer ...” Hill said. “As big as he was, he couldn’t contain it. He just asked her over the phone.”

Ronnie Eugene Smith was born April 21, 1962 in Galveston, Texas. He played basketball at the University of Nebraska.

After Europe and with his playing days behind him, Smith began his law enforcement career in Fayette County. In 2006 he was hired as a dispatcher at the Butts County 911 center. He transferred to the sheriff’s office as a jailer in 2007, and in 2008 he became a deputy sheriff.

Hill said Ronnie enjoyed being a part of a team, and it seemed his mission in life was to help others to shine. “Ronnie always did his best to make somebody else look good ... and we’re all a little less now that we don’t have him doing that for us,” he said. “Ronnie’s life was so big, not even his big body could hold it all.”

In written remarks prepared by his daughter, Shanice, and read aloud in French and in English, Shanice described her father as the consummate family man and devout Christian.

“I know that he is in Heaven right now, because he knew that he was going there,” a family member read in English. “Yes, right now it feels unfair. It hurts. But I know that one day we will all be together again. I love you so very much daddy, and I’m proud to call you my dad.”

Ronnie Smith’s body was due to be taken by motorcade Thursday night to the Atlanta airport, to fly to Texas, where interment had been set for Friday, Dec. 23 in Galveston.

Contributions to the Ronnie Smith Memorial Fund can be made at United Bank.