Basic correctional officer training wasn’t a requirement for Ronnie Lance. As a Georgia Board of Corrections member, though, Lance wanted to make sure he knew everything being asked of the officers.
That’s the kind of mentality family and friends are remembering this week after the Gainesville man died Tuesday, a day after his 71st birthday.
“He went beyond the call of duty for training,” said former state Rep. Jerry Jackson.
That was a common thread with Lance, who was also well-known for his Burger Chef and Beef Corral restaurants in Oakwood and Gainesville.
He later helped found the Lance Animal Hospital in 2006 in Gainesville with his wife, Carol; son Bryan Lance and daughter-in-law Dr. Marie Lance.
Lance served from 1983 until the mid-1990s on the Corrections board, holding secretary, treasurer and vice chairman roles in addition to his two-year term as chairman.
Bryan Lance said his father loved people and animals. On Wednesday, He recalled advice from his father: “Be good to people, treat them as you want to be treated and lead from the front.”
State Rep. Carl Rogers said he knew Lance for about 40 years and that the Lance family’s restaurant regularly sponsored baseball and softball teams and the rodeo held at the old fairgrounds at Blackshear Place.
“They always gave so much back to the community,” Rogers said.
Lance is survived by his wife and two sons.
Bobby Whitworth, a former Corrections commissioner who worked with Lance while he was on the board, called him an “excellent public servant.” Whitworth said Lance was instrumental in getting support for the building of prison facilities in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.
“He was always somebody that enjoyed life,” Whitworth said. “He had a unique ability to speak off the cuff.”
Lance’s late brother Curtis Lance owned Curt’s Cafeteria in Oakwood.
Jackson said he got to know Ronnie Lance well through the Burger Chef restaurant Lance took over from his father and the Beef Corral restaurants Lance and his wife founded and operated.
“They just ran a top-notch operation in everything they did,” Jackson said.
Rogers said Lance was “business-like” and Jackson said his friend let people knew where they stood.
“Ronnie would tell you like it was,” Jackson said. “He wouldn’t pull any punches.”
Bryan Lance marveled that his father “could tell you how foolish what you did was, and when you left, you were smiling.”
Marie Lance first met her father-in-law as a client who was emphatic about the care given to his animals, which included cows, dogs and horses. She said Ronnie Lance loved his grandchildren and didn’t mind changing diapers.
“He was a wonderful, kind soul,” Marie Lance said.