Friday, December 31, 2010

Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Rusty Arnold

SPRINGTOWN -- The long line of public-safety vehicles stretched down Farm Road 51 between Weatherford and Springtown just after noon Thursday. They slowly traveled the 17 miles from a funeral home to another long line -- a double row of Western hats and black-taped badges waiting at a high school football stadium to honor Parker County Sheriff's Deputy Rusty Gene Arnold.

Arnold, 32, was fatally injured in an off-duty wreck on Dec. 13. He died at a Fort Worth hospital on Dec. 21. Two other people were injured in the three-car crash.

The service focused on Arnold's time with the Sheriff's Department, where he had worked since 2001. He was a sergeant in criminal investigations when he died.

The Stephenville native was also an Iraq War veteran, serving as a sergeant in the Army Reserve in 2003 and 2004.

The bleachers quickly filled with Arnold's friends from Tarrant, Erath and Parker counties, and his adopted hometown of Springtown, population 2,639.

"He was a good guy," said Kara Harris of Weatherford, whose husband worked with Arnold in the Sheriff's Department. "You can't even say enough. Honestly, he was such a good officer, a good dad and a good husband."

Arnold always looked for the "teachable moments in his work," Riley said. "He could defuse a situation with his patience and special insight."

He once brought school supplies to a child he met on one of his calls, and on another occasion he counseled a hostile teen to stop blaming his parents for everything that went wrong in his life.

"Rusty's response to him was, 'If my parents were 7 feet tall, I'd be an NBA star, but they're not.' Rusty said, 'I've worked for what I have, and you can, too,'" Riley recalled.

Arnold cleaned up a paupers' cemetery for his Eagle Scout project, delivered Meals On Wheels with his grandparents, and continues to help people after his death as an organ donor, Riley said.

By Shirley Jinkins