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Officer Down/Greene County Deputy

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Posted over 9 years ago


'Everyone here today has lost something'

More than 2,000 pay tribute to deputy killed early Saturday morning

By Jaime Baranyai

Gary McCormack's 5-year-old son clung to his mother Tuesday, hiding his face in her neck as others remembered his father and recounted his life.

Occasionally, Grant McCormack looked up to see images of his dad during a funeral slide show, then immediately pushed himself into the comfort of his mom's arms again. Not once during the long day did he leave her side as the Greene County sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty was remembered for the life he left behind.

Gary McCormack, 32, of Republic died in a traffic accident about 4:15 a.m. Saturday while responding to a report of another accident.

More than 2,000 people, including hundreds of law enforcement officers in full uniform — down to the white gloves — gathered at Second Baptist Church in Springfield to honor McCormack's life. An American flag hung from the ladders of two fire engines, forming an entryway to the church.

Inside, family, friends and complete strangers sat shoulder to shoulder. Whether they knew each other or knew McCormack, all were grieving.

Everyone here today has lost something," Greene County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Ussery said during the eulogy. "And if you didn't know Gary, you lost something, too, because you never had the joy of knowing him."

Friends and family described McCormack as a dedicated law enforcement officer and a devoted family man who loved to make others laugh. The nearly two-hour ceremony was a blend of thoughtful words, heartfelt memories, tears and moments of laughter.

"We're here to celebrate Gary's life," said Rev. Steve Ward, who officiated the ceremony. "If that means we cry, we cry. If that means we laugh."
'Loved being a cop'

For the deputy and former Republic policeman, the first song played at the funeral was "Bad Boys," theme to the "Cops" reality TV show.

McCormack had been a sergeant with the Republic Police Department for seven years before becoming a Greene County deputy four months ago.

"He loved being a cop," Ussery read in a letter from McCormack's widow, Stephanie. "His goal every night was to do his job and do it right."

A sheriff's deputy and a police officer solemnly stood guard at each end of McCormack's casket throughout the ceremony.

During the eulogy, Ussery spoke about McCormack's attention to detail on the job. "Courage, integrity, pride, trustworthy — these words did not make Gary ... Gary made these words."

Ussery also told light-hearted memories of how McCormack "liked to mess with rookies."

Bryan Smith told those at the funeral he was one of those rookies, adding that McCormack "loved to tease." He displayed a pair of wooden clogs McCormack had given him as a joke.

Smith said McCormack always tried to teach him how to be "sneaky," and once said he was as loud as "a dog wearing wooden shoes." When Smith's training was complete, McCormack gave him the shoes.

On a more serious note, Smith said McCormack constantly strived for improvement. He demanded it from himself and from those he worked with.

Greene County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Jim Arnott said one of McCormack's longterm goals was to graduate from the FBI Academy. Overwhelmed with emotion, Arnott presented McCormack with a diploma from the FBI.

"Brother, we love you and we want you to know that you have accomplished your goal," Arnott said choking back tears.

When Smith ended his tribute to McCormack by saying, "All gave some," the crowd of law enforcement officers at the service responded with, "Some gave all."

'Good family man'

While McCormack's son remained latched onto his mom, Stephanie McCormack's relatives held the couple's 1-year-old daughter Natalie. The only thing more important to McCormack than serving the community as a law enforcement officer was his family.

He was a "good family man," his father Rick McCormack said. "He worked long hours and took good care of his kids."

The minister said McCormack knew how to separate his work life from his personal life. "He was a great dad and a great husband," Ward said. "Above all, he was a great Christian."

McCormack treated his friends like his own family. "Most people made friends, but Gary made family," Smith said. "It was amazing how he captured everyone."

Ussery said McCormack was not only a good policeman, but a good man all around. "There was not an ounce of selfishness in Gary," he said.

Larry and Tina Busick of Columbia credited McCormack with helping them save their marriage.

McCormack's second cousin, Vanetta Peters of Springfield, said his dedication to his wife was a good model for other young couples. "I'm very proud of the way he was raising his family," she said.

McCormack was "an above and beyond" kind of person, according to Ward. "He lived life outside the box, and he did it in such a way that won you over," Ward said. "He was mature beyond his years and yet he was a little boy, too. He knew how to work hard and he knew how to play. He had a passion for life."

'No regrets'

Arnott said the cross he found pinned beneath McCormack's pocket flap the morning he died is a sign from God that he's in a better place. "It's an assurance of his faith ... and that he's looking down and smiling on us now."

The letter from McCormack's wife read, "He lived with no regrets and he left this life with no regrets."

Stephanie McCormack went on in her letter to thank law enforcement officers and the community for the outpouring of support she and her children have received and asked for prayers now that her husband is "walking hand-in-hand with Jesus."

In the eulogy, Ussery said there's never a good reason why people are taken from this life, but said, "God needed another good guy."

He added, "Life is short, so you better not hesitate to tell the people you love that you love them."

Ward's message was that life is brief, "teach us to number our days, Lord." He said McCormack lived about 12,005 days.

"He lived such a short life, but my what he packed into it," said Springfield resident Mae Cotter after the ceremony. "We get so busy that we forget we may not be here long."

Betty Weaver of Springfield, who knew McCormack when he was a little boy, said his death made her think about the lives of other law enforcement officers.

"We don't give them enough credit," she said. "Think about the danger they're in every day."

Last respects

It took almost an hour for those at the church to file past McCormack's coffin, paying their last respects. Following the ceremony, hundreds of cars — many of them police vehicles with the bright flashing lights activated --


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Video of his funeral


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That is so sad, my thoughts and prayers are with the Deputys family and friends.