By MICHAEL ANICH, The Leader-Herald
AMSTERDAM - Longtime Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Inv. Ernest John "E.J." Sammons was laid to rest Saturday at Evergreen Cemetery in Fonda, but not after numerous area police officers came to his funeral service to pay him tribute.
Saturday was also a celebration of a 48-year-old's life well spent, as speakers vocalized the Fonda man's zest for life. Uninformed officers filled in most of the right side of the Christmas-decorated Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on Guy Park Avenue. Police officers also helped carry Sammons' flag-draped casket into and out of the church, and officers spoke of their friend and colleague during the late morning service after Friday's snowstorm.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
A St. Johnsville fire truck and a Hagaman fire truck extend their ladders and hang an American flag overhead as the hearse with the casket of E.J. Sammons passes underneath on Route 5 in Fort Johnson heading west toward the cemetery in Fonda Saturday.
"Okay Ernie, I think we have enough snow to ski and four-wheel," Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith told his friend.
Sun shone through the windows of the church, which experienced the sound of a normal police siren going by in Amsterdam during the gospel. Later, area volunteer firefighters held a procession on Route 5 as part of the funeral.
Sammons - a 23 1/2-year veteran with the sheriff's office - passed away peacefully from cancer Monday at his home with his family at his side. He was a single father to two children -Jamie and Jacob Sammons.
"Lord, help us now to release him to your mighty kingdom," said Rev. Kenneth Dingman, who presided over the service.
According to his obituary, Sammons was a lifelong Fonda area resident and was a 1979 graduate of Fonda Fultonville Central High School. He graduated from Fulton-Montgomery Community College in 1982 with an A.A.S. degree in Criminal Justice. He went on to graduate with his B.A. degree from the University of Houston in Texas. He then became deputy constable in Texas and worked from 1982-1985.
He came back to the area in 1985 and went to work for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Fonda. In 1997, he was promoted to investigator with the office and had worked in that capacity ever since. Throughout his career with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Sammons specialized duties consisted of being a part of the Dive and Rescue Team, Multi Agency Entry Team (SWAT), all-terrain vehicle operation, search and rescue, DOT truck inspection team, accident investigation/reconstruction, patrol boat operation and evidence custodian.
Sammons worked on many cases during his career. Many of his actions involved his boat operation and dive and rescue duties, with the bridge collapse on the state Thruway in 1988 to various floods Montgomery County has experienced, the obituary said. He used his skills and experience to rescue many people off of the Schoharie Creek during dangerous water times.
Sammons also coached basketball and enjoyed many outdoor sports including skiing, camping, running, boating, hunting and fishing.
In his talk at the service, Smith remembered Sammons professionally. He urged those gathered to listen for Sammons' "infectious laugh," which he also described as a "cackle."
He also urged everyone to remember the "character that Ernie displayed" on the job, the undersheriff said.
"He was a cop's cop," Smith said. "To members of law enforcement, Ernie was our brother ... Most importantly, a close knit friend to us all."
Choked up with emotion, Gloversville police Detective Joe Nowak spoke of his friendship with Sammons.
"Friends like Ernie are special people," Nowak said, urging everyone to recall the "priceless" times they had with Sammons.
The officer said Sammons is "forever protecting us" and he is "only a prayer away" for those who still need him.
Family members of the deceased officer - Kelly Knoop and Julia Hudyncia - read a poem from his daughter, Jamie, about fatherhood.
In it, his daughter wrote, "He was always understanding when it came to the rough patches in our life."
It was noted that Sammons grew up "breaking rules," but spent the rest of his life dedicated to "enforcing them."
"Ernie lived his life fully, the same way he drove his boat fast ... almost as though he knew he was not going to see everything in his life," Rev. Dingman stated.
In an interview with Smith Friday, the undersheriff said he and his colleagues all knew how sick Sammons was. He noted the Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff's Police Benevolent Association hosted a basketball tournament to benefit him Oct. 25 in Fort Plain.
"He was involved in almost everything" on the job, Smith said, including many "major cases."
The officer's father - Jake Sammons - said Friday his son was a true family man.
"He adored his children," he said.
Jake Sammons said his son was also always inquisitive as a child.
"As a boy, he was always looking for something different," he said. "He wanted to experiment. He was the type of person that had to investigate and find out about things. He was exceptionally good at his job."
Jake Sammons said his son also adored his golden retriever, Jessie.