MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hundreds of people gathered in the Johnson County High School gymnasium to pay their respects to Sheriff Eddie Tester.
The Johnson County sheriff died unexpectedly last Friday.
Law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters from across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia came to Wednesday’s funeral to honor and remember Tester.
The ceremony featured a slideshow of Tester with friends and family. Speakers told the audience about Tester’s life.
Johnson County EMS Paramedic, Willie DeBord, spoke during Tester’s funeral. He said he’s been friends with Tester for over 35 years.
“He always had a smile on his face and always friendly,” DeBord said. ” I always used to tell him, I said, you’re a great politician, because he was a people person, loved to meet people and talk with them.”
After the ceremony, a long procession led by a truck carrying Tester’s casket headed to Sunset Memorial Park for a graveside ceremony.
Tester served as Johnson County sheriff from 2018 until his passing. He also served as a Tennessee state trooper for 18 years.
“I met him at first as a state trooper, and we become good friends, and he had always helped the fire department in any way,” said Richard Fritts, with the Johnson County Second District Volunteer Fire Department.
Johnson County EMS Director Brad Gentry said one of Tester’s biggest impacts in his life was as an EMT.
Gentry said Tester was responsible for saving countless lives through his training of future paramedics.
“Eddie also helped a lot of the younger generations with the explorer program,” Gentry said. “Recruiting people to EMS, [he’s] done a lot of teaching in EMS, training in EMS. Thirty-five plus years of service with EMS.”
Dean Townsend, a captain of the Mountain City Fire Department, said Tester taught him in his first responder class. Then, they became good friends.
Townsend said a memory that stands out to him is when he took Tester to his first burning house.
“He kind of got a little bit excited wanted to holler where the fire was,” Townsend said. “And I told him to just look around, you’ll find it in just a matter of seconds. “We found it and he did a good job.”
Tester’s patrol truck was parked in front of the high school, adorned with flowers.
Fellow first responders also signed a flag in honor of Tester.
Washington County, Virginia Sheriff Blake Andis worked closely with Tester.
He said the turnout at his funeral is a testament to the sheriff’s character.
“He was highly respected among the other sheriffs and the other agencies like the highway patrols,” Andis said. “He definitely believed in protecting and serving the citizens whether they were in Virginia or Tennessee.”
Carter County Sheriff Mike Fraley said Tester’s passing will have an impact on area law enforcement.
“Two weeks ago when we were in Sevierville at the Sheriff’s Association, he always had that smile,” Fraley said. “I’ll never forget it. It was contagious. He’d always bring happiness into a room no matter where we were at. He’s going to be dearly missed in this region.”
Many were proud to remember Tester as a friend, including Gentry.
“Eddie was a really good friend,” Gentry said. “Always willing to help no matter the situation. No matter what time of day or night. Eddie was just always there or just a phone call away. He would be there to help you and get right in with you as much as he could possibly do.”