LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Members of the area law enforcement family are remembering a man who's been a fixture in Lawton and Comanche County for the last four decades.
Former Lawton Police Chief Ronnie Smith died Saturday at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer.
Smith served on the Lawton Police Department for nearly 40 years, working his way up, eventually serving as chief from 2005 until 2012.
He then spent five years as a Comanche County Sheriff's Deputy and was also the Assistant Fire Chief for the Valley View Volunteer Fire Department.
Everyone we talked to Monday had nearly the same things to say about Ronnie Smith. They said that he was one of the best people they've ever met, that he spent significantly more time taking care of others than he did himself and that there are no words to measure just how much he will be missed by this community.
Those closest to him say there are very few people as good as Ronnie Smith.
"If you needed something and he didn't have it, he'd go buy it and loan it to you. That happened several times. We'd be out on someone and they might be down on their luck and Ronnie might give them 20 dollars, 10 dollars, just to help them along," said Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley.
"You couldn't ask for a better person. If he knew you needed something, he already did it for you without you ever asking," said Valley View Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lin Newton.
Smith served in the Lawton community for more than 40 years, working closely with nearly every police officer and firefighter to help citizens.
"We'd go out on calls and when we had homicides, he'd show up on calls, he'd actually go out and ride with us. He was a true leader," said Sergeant Clay Houseman with the Lawton Police Department.
"I talked to several officers who worked with him the past. They said he was a mentor, someone who really cared about people, someone who was willing to go the extra mile, would give you the shirt off his back," said Lawton Police Department Chief James Smith.
As great as Smith was as a law enforcement officer and firefighter, those who knew him best say he was an even better friend.
"He was my best friend for the last 45 years. Everybody loved him. There was nothing in his character that he wasn't going to go out of his way to help somebody if he could," Newton said.
"He told you how it was. He was honest, sometimes brutally honest but that's what you liked about him. He pulled no punches when he talked to you," Houseman said.
"He was having chemo and being very sick and he'd call me about every day and say, Sheriff, I'm sorry. You gave me this job and I can't come to work, I'm sorry. I never had anybody all these years call me and apologize for not coming to work. Here he was battling cancer and he's sorry he couldn't come to work. That's what we're talking about what kind of individual he was," Stradley said.
All agreed that going forward, the Lawton community will miss having Ronnie Smith around.
"People knew him, cared about him and so it is a tremendous loss not only for the police department but also for the Lawton - Fort Sill community," Smith said.
"I don't know how to put it into words, but this man will be missed by many," Houseman said.
"He's definitely going to be missed. There are many people that he's touched their lives, and probably many more that we don't know about that are going to be touched. Everyone's going to miss him," Newton said.
"Evidently the Lord must have needed a chief of police in heaven because he took a good one. We didn't want to lose him but the Lord knows what's best," Stradley said.