In Memorium Of Those Who Serve Unconditionally.
This portion of the Georgia Coroners Association website is named in dedication of Ronnie Stewart. Ronnie died from injuries received in the line of duty on a Coroner’s call. Please read about this amazing, caring man and why he is deserving of this high honor from the Association. Members are encouraged to submit other memorial tributes to the association for inclusion in this special aspect of the GCA site.
James Carswell Durden
James Carswell Durden, age 76, of Brunswick, died Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Jimmy was a native of Macon, Georgia and graduated from Lanier High School in 1955. He attended Mercer University and Middle Georgia College prior to enrolling in John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, TN. Jimmy graduated from mortuary school in 1959, married his wife, Fay, then moved to Brunswick in 1960. He served as President and part owner of Gibson Hart Durden Funeral Home until 1978 when the firm went out of business. He then worked for Southern Coffin and Casket Company until 1987, was the former owner of the Flower Basket, and began his career as the Glynn County Coroner in 1993, a position he still holds today. Jimmy has also been employed as a funeral director and community service representative with Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home since 1995. He was a member of the Academy of Graduate Embalmers of Georgia as well as past president and 50 plus year member of the Georgia Funeral Directors Association. He is also an active member of the Georgia Coroners Association. Jimmy was also very active in his local community, serving as a member of the Masonic Ocean Lodge #214 F&AM, the Brunswick Shrine Club, the Alee Temple in Savannah, and was an active member of Christ Church. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Fay Dozier Durden; two sons, Carswell Durden of Brunswick and John Durden (Teresa) of Hinesville; four grandchildren, John C., Rebecca, Dillon and Chandler Durden, all of Brunswick; a great granddaughter, Kaitlyn Usher of Brunswick; a daughter-in-law, Lisa Durden of Brunswick; an uncle, John Durden of Delray Beach, FL; and a cousin, Claire Laing of Marietta, GA.
Joe F. Mason, Jr, Coroner Wilkinson County
Joe F. Mason, Jr. (Irwinton) age 71 went home to be with the Lord on Monday February 4, 2008. Services will be held at 11:00 am Thursday at Liberty Baptist Church with Rev. Morris Wood officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. Mr. Mason was born in Wilkinson County March 19, 1936, he was the son of Joseph F. Mason, Sr. and Idell Whitaker Mason. He was preceded in death by two brothers Richard “Dick” Mason and Elton Durwood Mason. He was elected Mayor of Irwinton in 1956 and was the owner of Dixieland Motel & Restaurant for more than 30 years. He was the first county agent for Farm Bureau and was the Wilkinson County Coroner for 31 consecutive years. He also held the position of District Supervisor for the Central Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission and was awarded Conservationist of the Year. He received his degree as a Master Gardner in Organic Gardening. His love for God and Nature was working in his 12 acre organic natural garden everyday. He loved talking to people about the way he farmed and always had a positive outlook and saw the best in everyone he met and loved all his many garden buddies. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
His family was the most important thing in his life. He always taught them the value of love, honesty and forgiveness and to always do their best. He will be greatly missed by his loving wife of 52 years, Jackie Justice Mason of McIntyre, his loving children; Joe F. Mason, III (Lynn) and Denise Mason Brinson (Phil) all of Irwinton, John Paul Mason (Celes) of Milledgeville, six grandchildren; Tania Mason Mitchell (Jonathan), Joseph Mason, Tyler Brinson, John Cody Mason, John Logan Mason and Olivia Mason, three brothers; John E. Mason (Dagma) and Larry Mason (Annette) all of Irwinton, Harold Mason (Brenda) of Milledgeville, two sisters; Winifred Wood (Morris) of Gray and Annie Rachael Loyd (Bo) of McIntyre. Memorial contribution may be made to the Georgia Cancer Specialist of Milledgeville.
Published in The Telegraph on 2/6/2008
Leroy Sims, Coroner Richmond County
Augusta Georgia native Leroy Sims wouldn’t remain a small town boy for long. As soon as possible he enlisted in the Army. After being wounded in Korea with a required year long stay in the VA hospital to recover fully, he went right back out there.
When his enlistment was up he joined the Air Force. He would remain a career soldier until his retirement. His desire to serve the public would never be complete in his eyes. He immediately joined the Augusta Police Department. Grover Tuten remembers this time well. They enlisted in the Police force together and became close friends.
Grover was an Assistant Coroner when he was needed. Leroy was asked to help out as well. They worked together for Coroner Woodward for several years. Leroy’s retirement from the police department as a successful homicide detective and the death of Coroner Woodward, gave Leroy the opportunity to become Coroner of Richmond county. It was 1985. He would run unopposed for the rest of his life. Grover continued to work along side his good friend for the Richmond County citizens.
Leroy Sims involvement in the Georgia Coroners Association began early in his career. He was always ready to assist the association in any way he was needed. He loved going to the annual meetings. He was especially fond of the Tybee Beach training sessions and meetings.
Leroy enjoyed his time as President of the GCA. He was most proud of his involvement in getting the pay rate increased for call services. It was important to him that Coroners and Deputies be fairly compensated. We are all in his debt.
Leroy rarely found his job in viewing and pronouncing deaths easy. He was affected by each one. He used his interests in coin collecting to reduce his stress from his work. Leroy was also a wonderful organist. It was common for Leroy to come in from a case and sit down to play. He had found a way to ease his mind in the way that we all need in this business.
The events that the Georgia Coroners Association offers each year to it’s members was one of Leroy’s favorite vacations. He loved them all, but Richard Stanley’s winter get together was by far the place he enjoyed the most.
Leroy was named Coroner of the year in 1995. His two terms as President of the association saw great progress and rewards under his command. The association now honors other Coroner’s or Deputy Coroner’s with an award named in memory of him. The Leroy Sims Distinguished Service Award is decided by the executive committee each year.
Leroy was a gentle giant, a man we all looked up to and admired. Rest well Leroy. Thank you for everything you did for the GCA.
Ronnie Stewart, Coroner of Henry County
Ronnie Stewart (1946 – 2005)
A young man barely out of high school found himself employed by the local funeral home in Henry county. This would be the start of his lifelong career in the service of others. Ronnie Stewart was that man. He found his greatest strength in the compassion that came so easily to him. His experience with the funeral home led to a commitment to help others in their hour of grief. Ronnie would go on to serve his community for the rest of his life.
When asked, Ronnie took on the role of Battalion Chief for the county Fire Department. Ronnie taught EMS classes and served as EMS director when they needed someone to step in to fill a void. It was during one of these classes that an event occured that would change his life forever.
Ronnie left to answer an emergency call and was struck by a passing car. Ronnie was paralyzed from the waist down. This tragic event would have ended the career of a lesser person. Ronnie was back at work as Coroner six months later.
Through it all, his loving wife Jackie stood by his side and marveled at his strength. His community and it’s leaders were equally impressed. Those that knew Ronnie wouldn’t have expected any less of him. Ronnie was a man of amazing strength and determination. He had not yet helped everyone he could. He knew that he had to get out there and continue his work.
He would humbly say that it was the voters of his county that kept him working. He was a gentle giant that people loved. They speak of Ronnie to this day as their big brother, their father figure. The voters knew a genuine caring person when they saw it and continued to reelect Ronnie for 35 years.
Ronnie once said; “I get a great deal of satisfaction when I can make things a little easier for a bereaved family”. His ability to do just that with little effort is what drew people to him.
Serving as the Georgia Coroners Association Secretary and Treasurer for several years was his pleasure. He held a deep fondness for the GCA and believed in it’s mission. He believed in America. He was known to get choked up by the American flag. He was the type of man that wasn’t afraid to show emotion. Whether it was at a game of his beloved Falcons or watching a television show with Jackie. He felt everything deeply.
As Ronnie’s health declined he prepared his final days and planned his funeral as well. His idea was to be driven to his final resting place in the back of the antique fire truck that he had been instrumental in restoring. As his convoy traveled through the town square, they drove it’s streets in reverse. Just as Ronnie would have wanted.
It is a great honor for the Georgia Coroners Association to name this tribute page in dedication of Ronnie Stewart. His contributions to his community and the GCA will be remembered throughout history. We are honored to have known him. He was our friend. He was our brother. He will always be missed. May we all remember his lessons and strive to continue his gentle work.