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Officer who died was an inspiration, sheriff says
Services for sheriff's Sgt. James Evans held at Air Line Baptist Church
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GAINESVILLE — There was room left only to stand in Air Line Baptist Church as law enforcement officers, family and friends crowded in to say goodbye to a 24-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. James Evans, 46, served in the criminal investigations division of the Hall County sheriff’s department until his all-terrain vehicle collided head-on with a car on Hillcrest Drive Saturday.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said Evans was a dedicated colleague and a wonderful coworker, calling Evans a "dear friend," "a mentor" and "an inspiration to all of us." Cronic told of a call the sheriff’s office had received on Christmas Eve, when Evans was not the on-call investigator. Cronic said the on-call investigator had small children, and Evans had taken the call so the investigator could spend time with them.

"That speaks volumes," Cronic said.

But there was much more to Evans’ life than his dedication to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Cronic said. Cronic described Evans as a loving husband, a dedicated father, a doting grandfather and a proud son.

"The Hall County Sheriff’s Office, this community and each one of us has been greatly enriched by having James in our lives," Cronic said.

The Rev. Charles Pirkle said Evans was not only a Christian, but he enjoyed life. Pirkle called the funeral service a celebration of Evans’ home going.

"He’s more alive today than he ever was," Pirkle said.

Though Evans died before the age of retirement, the Rev. Doyle Conley said Evans’ life had not been cut short by Saturday’s tragic accident.

"Nobody leaves before their time," Conley said. "Some ripen later, some ripen early, but nobody leaves before their time."

Since Evans was a Christian, he was a part of God’s family and God had appointed a day for him to go to heaven, Conley said. "He was just passing through here on the way home."

Conley, who had shared a passion for East Hall basketball with Evans, said every meeting with Evans involved a warm welcome and an embrace.

The Air Line Baptist Church sanctuary, which seats 1,000 people, was full as uniformed officers from Barrow, Dawson, Lumpkin, Fulton and Hall counties came to pay their respects to an officer who had served Hall County for 24 years. Evans’ casket was taken to the church cemetery on a horse-drawn caisson to the sound of bagpipes. At the burial site, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard said goodbye to Evans with a 21-gun salute.

"We all love James," Cronic said. "We now wish him godspeed and know we will keep him in our hearts, and his family in our prayers, until that glorious time when we are all together again, patrolling the streets of heaven."

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