FONDA - One Christmas season, former Montgomery County Sheriff Ronald "Rush" Emery asked his undersheriff, Robert Arthurs, an ordinary question that led to an extraordinary example of the man that Emery was.
The question: "Have you gotten all of your Christmas shopping done?"
Arthurs told the sheriff he had finished his Christmas shopping, but he wasn't able to get his son a toy he really wanted.
A Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy stops traffic on Broadway in Fonda on Saturday as pallbearers take the casket of former Montgomery County Sheriff Ronald “Rush” Emery from a hearse prior to his memorial service at the Fonda Reformed Church. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
"About a day or two later, he said the gift was on its way ... A very thoughtful and resourceful boss made my son's Christmas," Arthurs recalled with tears.
This was one of many stories told about the late sheriff at his funeral service Saturday at the Fonda Reformed Church. Emery, a Fonda resident, passed away on Dec. 29 at the age of 76. He had started his career with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department in 1966 and served as the county's elected sheriff from 1974 to 1997.
On Saturday, friends and family members recalled Emery as a helpful, loving man who was passionate about his wife and seven children.
Arthurs said Emery had appointed him as undersheriff, and when he left the position 13 years later, to become a school teacher in Amsterdam, Emery said he understood and wished him luck.
Arthurs said he kept in touch with Emery over the years, and when he learned that the retired sheriff was working at Agway in Johnstown, he paid his friend a visit. They greeted each other with a big hug.
"The last time I got to see my friend and talk to him was two years ago," Arthurs said. "He said something he never said to me. He said, 'Thank you for being you.' ... Rush, thank you for being you."
Emery's son-in-law Charles March shared more stories of the former sheriff and told those closest to him what they already knew - that Emery had a truly comprehensive love for his family.
March told those at the funeral that Emery was a gift God shared with them for 27,849 days. He told of a trip he took to Italy with his family and how that trip showed him a new understanding of love for his family.
But March quickly dismissed the notion that the trip was vital for teaching Emery about that love.
"He didn't need a trip to Italy to understand the importance of family," March said. "We know that family was the center of his focus and joy in life."
The Rev. Karen Patterson officiated at the funeral ceremony, and during her sermon she shared her observations of Emery, her former next-door neighbor.
Emery taught her children about the importance of safety and respect, Patterson said, saying his acts of service and kindness seemed to define his life.
"He touched many lives," Patterson said. "And you, his family, I hope you know how much he loved you. Because as an onlooker, it was easy to see."
John Borgolini can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.