By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
The family, friends and colleagues of Eddy Wayne Sizemore said “goodbye” to him for the final time, as the helicopter pilot and public servant was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon in Laurel County.
During the funeral at First Baptist Church of London, and at the burial at Locust Grove Cemetery in Keavy, hundreds of persons from the Tri-County area and throughout the state and region paid their respects to the 61-year-old Sizemore.
They remembered the man, husband, father and grandfather as a person who did what he loved best — as one who loved to serve others.
Sizemore’s life, and the lives of two other Air Evac Lifeteam crew members were tragically cut short last Thursday night, when the medical helicopter he was piloting crashed on the parking lot of Paces Creek Elementary School in Clay County.
London Funeral Home, who handled the funeral arrangements, said Tuesday evening a combined total of some 800 to 1,000 persons came to the visitation Monday evening, as well as Tuesday’s funeral and burial.
While the funeral was called a “Service of Remembrance,” organizers also referred to it as a “Tribute to a Fallen Hero.”
Inside the vast main chapel at First Baptist of London, two Kentucky State Troopers stood on each side of Sizemore’s closed casket. An American flag was draped over the casket, which was in front of the pulpit.
On each side of the pulpit were his military uniforms, along with pictures and other memorabilia during his days when he served with honor in Vietnam as a member of the United States Army. It was noted that for his bravery and service under fire, Sizemore was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart
After Sizemore’s family and relatives were seated near the casket in the middle section of the chapel, a moving moment came about 10 minutes before the service was to start.
A steady procession of law enforcement officers and staff, as well as first responders, walked by the casket and took their seats. Laurel County Sheriff’s Office deputies and staff members came, as did Air Evac Lifeteam crew members, London and out-of-town police, fire department personnel, EMT’s, State Police and many more. The seats in that section filled up rapidly as those who knew and remembered Sizemore came to show their solidarity.
A medley of hymns from the chapel’s organ brought comfort and solace to the crowd, while above the casket, a large video screen showed pictures of Sizemore’s life and times — his family, his friends, and now his legacy.
After the song “Beulah Land” was sung by Rick Brewer, Pastor Ronnie Ball of Souls’ Harbor Church gave the invocation. “For everyone who participated in this service, may you give them (Sizemore’s family) strength.” Ball then said to the family, “You have my personal sympathy at this time of sorrow.”
He told the audience, “We just enjoyed this good man all of these years. Eddy was a kind and compassionate person. Everybody loved to be around him.”
An inspirational song, “You Raise Me Up” was performed next by Earl Smith, accompanied by a piano. As Smith sang the song’s lyrics which included, “I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up…To more than I can be,” many in the chapel began to tear up. The eyes of several first responders — people accustomed to reacting calm in times of crisis — turned red during the song’s playing.
Rev. Tim Mills spoke on behalf of Sizemore’s family, and his friend. But first, he said this to those at the funeral.
“This is on behalf of Pam and the children. ‘The support from the community, and the show of support from law enforcement and emergency services from around the state, moves them deeply.’”
Mills spoke of the times he and Eddy officiated football games for the KHSAA (Kentucky High School Athletic Association), noting that officiating and serving as a helicopter pilot are the two things he loved most.
“He was serving people. He was giving back. We salute him, and his life, today. Eddy was great because he wanted to make a difference. He could make mistakes, and he could learn how to correct those mistakes. … Eddy was a team player. His number one team was you, his family. He loved you very much. He loved being a dad. He loved being a grandfather. To the Air Evac team and first responders, thank you for letting Eddy be a part of your team. He was team passion. Eddy was team. More specially, and most of all, Eddy gave his all to serve others,” Mills pointed out.
As Chaplain of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department, Rev. Gene Greene stated he knew Sizemore very well and that he was extremely well-suited to service.
“Eddy Sizemore was a guy destined to be in the skies. He loved to be above the trees. And he loved to serve others. He spent his entire life as a servant, in some capacity. I don’t think we’ll ever forget Air Evac 109,” he said.
Green then looked down from the pulpit and told the family, “Pam and your children, we’re with you. You’re not alone. We’re with you.”
After the audience sang the classic hymn, “Amazing Grace,” First Baptist of London’s Pastor, Dr. Terry Lester said Sizemore gave value to everyone he met and whose lives he touched.
“We recognize Eddy Sizemore and his value to the community. He was involved in the lives of his children. Helpful. Selfless. He was of great value to his 10 grandchildren as a Grandpappaw. Eddy did whatever he could, because he loved his family. He was of great value to his country by serving in Vietnam. … And he was of great value to his community, serving in law enforcement. The times he’s seen were larger in life. But he knew we were vulnerable in life. Those deeds he did for so many will never be forgotten. He was of such great value to God, and he was of such great value to all of us,” noted Dr. Lester.
Many of those who came to the funeral also drove down KY 363 to the burial in Keavy.
At the cemetery, the show of solidarity continued for Sizemore. Starting with the London Fire Department, a total of 11 big engines from Laurel County, McWhorter, West Knox, Woodbine, Swiss Colony and others were in the procession. More first responders came to the gravesite, and silently watched as a Laurel County Sheriff’s Department cruiser that once was used by Sizemore drove to the site first. A piper playing the bagpipes was next, followed by a white hearse carrying Sizemore’s body.
Nine pallbearers — all from law enforcement — carried the flag-draped coffin to the burial site. There was a long silence, then Dr. Lester read the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is My
Shepherd.” He added after reciting the Psalm, “How good it is that precious brothers and sisters live in unity.”
The service continued with a final prayer, a gun salute and the playing of taps by a lone bugle.
Up in the blue skies of the warm June afternoon, an Air Evac helicopter similar to the one Sizemore and the crew of Flight 109 were on, did a flyover for the family.
And then, various tones used by first responders were heard, followed by a call from the pager at Laurel Dispatch.
There was no response. Just some static and some silence.
The dispatcher gave the “Final Call” for Eddy Sizemore. And after a moment of silence, the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”
Before the funeral service, Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell said of Sizemore, “I’ve known him since he started in law enforcement. Eddy was the type of person that if you asked him to do something, it was done. He was very dependable. His death really shocked us all.”
Deputy Gilbert Acciardo is the Public Affairs Officer for the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department. He and eight other men were pallbearers at Sizemore’s funeral Tuesday. When the burial ended, he reflected on the events of the past six days — and the loss of a friend.
“It was really sad to see the hearse go by the house he (Sizemore) previously lived in on 363. We’ve all had to be tough to get through the visitation and the funeral. But when the burial’s over, we all grieve. We cry and grieve like everyone else. We know we have to continue to fly the banner,” he said.
Herman Lee Dobbs Arrangements
The funeral arrangements for Herman Lee Dobbs, the flight paramedic who died in the crash, are now completed.
Dobbs, 40, of London, is survived by his wife, Emilee, and their three children, Jordan, Hayden and Walker Dobbs. His parents, a sister, brother and other relatives survive.
His funeral service will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at Hawk Creek Church on Route 80 West in London. The family will receive friends from 3-9 p.m. that day, also at the church.
House-Rawlings Funeral Home in London is in charge of arrangements.
Additional visitation will be held at Christian-Sells Funeral Home in Rogersville, Tenn. on Thursday from 5-8 p.m. An additional funeral service will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the funeral home in Rogersville, with burial following at Church Hill Memorial Gardens in Church Hill, Tenn.
The complete obituary can be found in today’s Times-Tribune.
This note — the funeral procession will leave the church in London following Thursday’s funeral, go down I-75 and take Exit 29 onto U.S. 25E in North Corbin and go south. It’s expected to arrive in Knox County around 12:15-12:30. First responders in Knox County are asking residents to show support and honor Dobbs’ memory as the procession passes through the county on 25E.
The graveside service for the third person who died in the accident, flight nurse Jesse Lee Jones of Pineville, will be held today (Wednesday) at 11 a.m. at the Maiden Cemetery on Upper Laurel Fork in the Bell County community of Frakes. Creech Funeral Home in Pineville is in charge of arrangements.