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Lion chaser honored
Sheriffs lieutenant was a 30-year veteran at the office
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Hall County Honor Guard members fold the flag from the casket of 30-year Sheriff’s Office veteran Art Jetton at services Wednesday afternoon at Alta Vista Cemetery.

Wednesday was a celebration of Lt. Art Jetton's life.

Jetton, 59, a 30-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff's Office who served as a public information officer and training director and helped start the department's dive team, died Sunday.

As former co-workers told story after story about Jetton's life, family, friends and uniformed sheriff's deputies who packed the pews at First Presbyterian Church on South Enota Drive couldn't help but smile and laugh.

"I remember when he started at the department. On his first day, when we had to buy our own guns, he came in with a Western-style holster ... and a barrel on his leg," said David Garrison, who was on the dive team with Jetton. "We looked and laughed and thought, well, he's got his own gun."

Garrison's favorite memory is when the two spent three weeks at a diving camp in Canada, where Garrison blew out his eardrum.

"You know how worried he got," Garrison said. "On the way to the hospital, I think he ate three packs of Rolaids. He was eating them like candy."

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 buried in Alta Vista Cemetery with full honors Wednesday.

Dive team member Ken Grogan kept the group chuckling as he told stories of cave diving, pontoon boats on Lake Lanier and nicknames around the office.

"Let me start this the way Art would, ‘Oh no, tell me about,'" he said. "He taught so many people ... and is the only person who has gotten me to wear pantyhose in my life. Way back then, there was no such thing as a dry suit, and the trick was to cover yourself in baby powder, pantyhose, a leotard and the wet suit, hoping you'd stay warm."

With the self-given nickname "Obi-Wan" from the Star Wars trilogy, Jetton had names for everyone around the office - Padman, Stinky, Spanky, Wallace and Mean. Grogan could only imagine what it was like for Jetton to go to heaven three days ago and run into Shady Grady, his co-worker Grady Youngblood, who died two weeks ago.

"Can't you see him catching up with (his son) Rocky for the past three days and then running into Grady again?" Grogan said. "Just think about when we pass away and go by the streets paved with gold and a crystal lake with heavenly diving flags on the side. Can you imagine that? Heaven is going to be awesome."

Everyone has a story about Jetton, said retired U.S. Marshal Dick Mecum, who was sheriff when Jetton started the dive team.

"Dedication doesn't even come close to describing what he was like," he said. "Art was always willing to do whatever you asked him."

In April 1981, just months after Mecum became sheriff, officers investigating a high-profile murder decided to search the copper mines in Dahlonega for clues. Who volunteered to ride a wrecker hook down the 300-foot air shaft? Jetton, of course.

"Some other guys and I decided to go in another way, and at one point we reached the shaft and could hear Art above us, talking into the radio," Mecum said. "When he got in front of us, we said, ‘Aaaaaart' and turned on our flashlights, and he tried to climb that cable."

Most of all, Jetton was a great friend who took care of people and didn't see a job as too big or too small, said the Rev. Paul Evans, comparing Jetton to Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20. Benaiah climbed into a pit on a snowy day to kill a lion and became King David's chief bodyguard.

"He was a lion chaser just like Benaiah," Evans said, noting that the latest "lions," such as a stroke in 2009 that left Jetton partially paralyzed, were particularly tough.

"It's the lion chaser who really makes a difference in this world," Evans said. "As an officer and diver, Art risked his life and limb for the sake of others."

 

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