Art Jetton, a 30-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office who helped start the department’s dive team, died Sunday.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville on South Enota Drive. He will be buried at Alta Vista Cemetery off Jesse Jewell Parkway with full honors, Col. Jeff Strickland said.
Jetton, 59, was well-known in the community. He held many posts within the sheriff’s office, serving as public information officer, training director and dive team commander.
Jetton led the Hall County Dive Team from its inception in 1979, and oversaw the recovery of more than 100 drowning victims from Lake Lanier.
“He was easygoing and got along with everybody,” said Bob McMahan, a retired sheriff’s deputy who started at the office with Jetton in 1973. “If anybody needed somebody to do an extra job, he was the first one to step up.”
McMahan said Jetton saw a way to use his hobby of diving to provide underwater search and recovery in Hall County.
“He dearly loved to dive in the lake. That was his playground you might say,” McMahan said. “He started it with his own equipment before the county would spring for it.”
Sgt. Chris Tempel, current dive team commander, said he learned everything he knows about diving from Jetton.
“He’s one of the founding members of the team and helped write the first policies and how to conduct public safety diving on Lake Lanier — basically everything we’ve built the team off of all came from Art,” Tempel said. “He led by example. He was a great guy to work with and a great person.”
Those who knew him said Jetton was not one to sit still.
“Art was just always a busy body,” Tempel said, recalling Jetton’s side job working as a security guard at Lanier Technical College and starting his own pool repair company after retirement. “He just always had something going.”
Though Jetton worked hard, he was always friendly and had a great sense of humor, his friends say.
McMahan recalled a lot of laughter in the office they shared. One day, a colleague dropped in and mistakenly greeted the mannequin Jetton used for dive team training.
“He walked in the door and said, ‘Good morning ma’am, how are you?” McMahan said. “Art and I were about on the floor laughing.”
In 2009, Jetton suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. His daughter, Jessica Jetton, told The Times that while in intensive care, her father received an overwhelming number of visitors and cards.
“So many people have rallied around him,” she said at the time. “I don’t think he had any idea of the magnitude of the number of people who would call him a friend.”
That experience prompted her to begin a project to gather pictures and stories about her father. Her plan is to compile the stories into a single book covering his entire life. She’s still working on the project and said Monday that she hopes to get more stories to add to the collection.
“I am so proud to call him my father,” she said Monday.