'What a Legacy!': Rhyne Remembered for Serving Others
The distant sound of a piper and “Amazing Grace” began the final rites Monday afternoon for a much beloved law-enforcement officer.
Moore County sheriff’s deputy Rick Rhyne died Thursday when he was shot and killed while trying to arrest an Iraq War veteran with a history of mental troubles. He was the first deputy in Moore County ever to be killed in the line of duty.
Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College was overflowing with hundreds of mourners, including law-enforcement officers from Moore County and across the state.
“We thank you for Rick Rhyne,” David Borroughs said in opening the service with a prayer. “We thank you for sharing him with us.”
After the service ended, a long procession of law-enforcement vehicles escorted the hearse carrying Rhyne’s casket to near Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Roseland, where he was buried. Just before reaching the church, the casket was transfered to a horse-drawn caisson to be carried to the cemetery. Two of those horses had pulled the casket of President Ronald Reagan during his funeral procession.
Borroughs was one of several speakers at the funeral service. He said he had known Rhyne since the ninth grade, when they met in a civics class.
“He devoted his life to keeping peace and order in his home county,” Borroughs said. “I am sure if he knew what was happening today, he would say, ‘Who, me?’ He began when he was 21 years old, and for a time was the only policeman. Later he was chief. He was a good guy. When you see that blue light and somebody pulled over, somebody’s life is being saved. Ricky went into this in order to help people. With the number of folks gathered here today, he helped a lot. Our hearts are hurting today. One has been snatched from us in a violent, sudden kind of way.”
Another minister, Joseph Needham, told a number of stories from Rhyne’s love of motorcycle trips.
“Rick has gone on his last, long journey,” he said. “We can just imagine him smiling, waiting to tell us of his adventures.”
To the accompaniment of Vince Gill’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” videos of Rhyne cruising mountain roads on his bright yellow bike played on large screens.
At a visitation held on Sunday at Boles Funeral Home in Southern Pines, Rhyne’s Honda Gullwing — gleaming in its bright canary yellow, cleaned and polished by another retired lawman and close friend — stood next to a display of pictures and relics from Rhyne’s long years of service.
His police chief’s uniform and badge, which Foxfire Village retired when he did, was displayed along with framed badges, flags and other memorabilia near banks of flowers, including tributes from judges, attorneys and other leaders from Moore County and the state.
Outside, passing Rhyne’s patrol car where it stood draped in blue and black, visitors waited in line to pay their respects. More than 700 men and women came out that chilly Sunday afternoon, Jamie Boles said.
Needham quoted from the Gospel of John during his remarks at the funeral.
“Greater love hath no man than this,” he said, reading from John 15, “that he lay down his life for his friends.”
That was what Rhyne had done all his life, as all law officers do — where just to go to work is risk for them, Needham said. He spoke of Rhyne as one ever helpful to others, and to fellow officers.
“Many of you remember how he pulled a shift for you,” Needham said. “Something we all take for granted, but which in this case means taking a risk — a risk he was willing to take, and it is my honor to be in a room with so many willing to take that risk. We thank you.
“Rick raised a family that serves and protects. May we never forget what a risk it is, and that they are there taking a risk for us, so that we won’t have to. Deputy Rick Rhyne showed the greatest love. May God bless his family, his fellow officers and strengthen you.”
Rhyne and his wife, Wanda, had just celebrated 40 years of marriage.
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Strait said he was deeply honored for Wanda Rhyne to have asked him to say a few words.
“I don’t think any loss I experienced affected me as much as Rick,” Strait said. “We were such good friends over the years. I couldn’t get over it, and tried to remember when Rick and I first met. I moved to Foxfire after retirement and built a home.”
Strait said he had slipped from a ladder while trying to make a repair on his new home.
“Just at that moment, a police car came up and noticed my position on that ladder and pulled into our driveway,” he said. “Rick assisted me in getting down, and we had quite a chuckle over my predicament.”
Over his many years, Rhyne helped him, helped him get his TV working, helped work in his shop. He advised Rhyne’s son, Alan, to consider Emory Riddle University. Rhyne’s son is now a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, as is his wife, Jessica. Both are F-16 fighter pilots.
“This tragic event should make us aware of the deep gratitude we owe to our law officers,” Strait said. “They put their lives on the line every day. God bless America.”
Sheriff Lane Carter said during the service that “the outpouring of love and friendship” the department has received means a great deal.
“Since his early days, Rick has been a mentor to many and a friend to all,” he said. “I for one — and I am sure all the other officers in this room — was proud to serve with Rick.”
He had met Rhyne the day he became an officer, Carter said. He had gone to Pinehurst, where Rhyne met him with the big smile that became legendary.
“He loved his work, ladies and gentlemen,” Carter said. “He loved it with a passion. He was the first man I’d see when I came to work. I believe in getting up and getting to work early, and when I’d get in — at 6:30 — he would be there.”
Carter spoke of people Rhyne had arrested who gave him credit for helping them turn their lives around.
“He was a true friend to all of us,” Carter said, quoting from a poem at the law-enforcement memorial: “‘He traded in his badge for a pair of angel wings, and traded the sound of sirens for the songs the angels sing.’ End of watch: Dec. 8, 2011.”
At a command, all law officers present stood to attention and rendered one final salute.
‘He Really Cared’
Foxfire Police Chief Mike Campbell told how Rhyne influenced his decision to go into law enforcement. He followed the example his chief set, followed him into law enforcement and — after Rhyne’s retirement — as police chief in Foxfire Village.
“Ricky invited me to come ride along when I was only 19 years old,” Campbell said. “I figured it would only be for an hour, but it turned into half the day. The way he acted with people was completely different from what I expected.
“From that point on, I was hooked. He explained to me what I needed to do to become a police officer. Ricky even sponsored me in BLET (basic law-enforcement training).”
When Campbell graduated, there were no police jobs available, but he knew he wanted to work for Rhyne.
“He was so approachable and easy to get along with, and that day came in 2001,” Campbell said. “Rick swore me in as a police officer for Foxfire Village, and that day forever changed my life.”
Campbell said he was taken aback by the things Rhyne did for Foxfire residents.
“I watched him fix stereo equipment, fix phones for them, even take them to the doctor — always going out of the way,” Campbell said. “He really cared. Nothing touched me so much as when he started the kids’ fishing event. He loved watching the kids fish, and made sure each one got something whether they caught a fish or not. We went from 10 to over 140 kids.
“Rick really inspired me and mentored me. He went that extra mile for me and never asked for anything. Rick will always be a part of my family.”
Terry Brown spoke of Rhyne as a man who meant the world to him and said he could only imagine what people there could be feeling.
“When I got the news, I thought about what I would be remembered for,” he said. “Would I be remembered as a trusted friend, one who helped? Mr. Rhyne was a loving husband, a loving husband, a trusted colleague who treated all with respect.
“My heart hurts for you have lost your brother, a colleague, a friend, a mentor. We have lost a dear friend. Grandchildren — now too young to understand — listen to all the stories of what Grandpa did. They are all true. Wanda, Alan, there is only one thing I can think of when I think of Mr. Rhyne: What a legacy!”
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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