By Harley Nefe
Even though the sidewalks of Rivers Street were filled with people Thursday afternoon, it was complete silence while everyone waited for the funeral procession of Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox to arrive.
Eventually, the distant sounds of horses trotting and movements of uniformed officers from across the region could be heard in the very solemn atmosphere.
Thousands of community members gathered together at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center in the afternoon of May 6 in observance of the memorial service for both Sgt. Ward and Deputy Fox.
Sgt. Ward, 36, an eight-year veteran in the field of law enforcement, began his career at the Beech Mountain Police Department in 2013 before joining the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, where he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Deputy Fox, 25, a two-year veteran of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, was a K-9 officer who handled Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K-9 “Raven.” Prior to joining the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, he was a full-time deputy with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.
Both Sgt. Ward and Deputy Fox died in the line of duty after responding to a welfare check in Boone on April 28.
Doors opened for public seating at 1 p.m. and the service began around 3 p.m.
Thousands of people packed the Holmes Convocation Center to say goodbye to Sgt. Ward and Deputy Fox.
“As we look around today, we see familiar faces; we see unfamiliar faces,” said Chris Hatton, Chief of Police for the Sylva Police Department. “There’s a large group of people here, and not all of us are related to these families. Not all of us are first responders. Not all of us are even members of this community. We don’t all know each other, but we are all here for the same reason today, and that is to honor and to pay respects to these two men — these two heroes.”
Hatton explained during the beginning of the service that he moved to Sylva a little more than a year and a half ago. However, before that, he served in Watauga County with the Boone Police Department. One of his favorite things about being a law enforcement officer is that personnel consider themselves family.
“Many of you knew our heroes well. Many of you didn’t know them at all,” Hatton said. “But none of that matters here. We’re all here for a common purpose. Today, we are all members of the Ward and Fox family, and we are all members of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office family. So, today we are all family.”
Then David Ward and Tim Fox, who are the fathers of the fallen deputies, stood together before the audience to speak.
“On behalf of our family, the Fox and Ward family, we would like to thank you with the very most appreciation that we could give to you,” said both fathers together. “We were overwhelmed the other day with the most tragic news that a parent could ever hear. But then we have been overwhelmed by the abundance of compassion and help from everybody. Every single person that we have touched has helped us, and we want to thank you for your love and support that we have received, which has been amazing.”
Another speaker during the service was Rev. Franklin Graham.
“These men gave their all for our community, and I thank God for them,” he said. “To the family, I want to say how very sorry I am for your loss, the pain and the suffering that you are going through.”
Graham further said, “We thank God for these two men and for the example that they have set for another generation, for others to follow. Thank God for their bravery and for them doing their job.”
Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman also said a few words.
“To the Ward family, to the Fox family, you are our family,” he said. “If you look around, you will see that there is a brotherhood that is there for each and every one of us. I want you to know that we love you, and we are here for you after this ceremony and in the months, weeks and years ahead. Thank you for allowing us to have these two brave men protect the citizens of Watauga County. Our heart goes out to you. Please accept these folks as heroes, because that’s what they are.”
One of the final speakers during the service was Pastor Derrick Wilson, of Timbered Ridge Baptist Church in Sugar Grove.
Family members, friends and members of the law enforcement community from all parts of the state and region came together to attend the funeral service honoring the lives of the two lost officers, Sgt. Ward and Deputy Fox. The event came to an end around 5:10 p.m.
The entire memorial service was live streamed by AppTV and can be found here.
Below are photos from the service: