I just came back into the office after watching the procession go by carrying Deputy William Gentry back into Highlands County. One of the things that makes working in a community like this fulfilling is the almost universal outpouring of mourning when we lose one of our own.

I didn’t know William Gentry, but I’m privileged to know quite a few of our Law Enforcement professionals here in this County. We’re blessed with a GREAT crew of people charged with protecting us here – in Sebring, Lake Placid, the State Patrol Troopers in this District, AND our County Sheriff’s Department. They’ve lost one of THEIR own, but in town where everyone at least knows someone close to Deputy Gentry, it’s more than even the rightful honor given a public servant lost too soon. It truly IS a personal loss.

It took a few more days to bring William Gentry back home than it would have otherwise, because he did something special while he was alive. He registered as an organ donor, and five OTHER people’s lives may well be saved because of his forethought. And tissue donations mean even more healing for others later. There are over 100,000 people on organ donor waiting lists across the nation right now. The easiest thing in the world to do is check that box when you renew your Drivers’ License the next time and BE an organ donor. Bill Gentry lost his life senselessly, dealing with what should have been a boringly routine neighborhood dispute. But his generosity in life means other lives will be more meaningful, fuller and extended because of his organ donation. And that, while making this tragedy no less senseless, means his positive impact on our community and the world will have meaning for years to come. Rest In Peace, sir. And thank you – for everything.