Sep. 15—Before a crowd of about 1,700, Deputy Marshall Ervin Jr. was remembered Thursday as a loving husband and father, an avid fisherman and a compassionate lawman.
"He was a light. He was an old soul. He was beautiful, perfect. He was a wonderful man. To know him was to love him. The girls and I were blessed for the time that we had with him," wrote his wife, Jodi Ervin, in a letter read by pastor Brian Bloye.
Ervin, who was 38, and a fellow deputy, 42-year-old Jonathan Koleski, died while serving a warrant at a house a week prior, Sept. 8. Koleski's funeral service was Wednesday.
On Thursday, Ervin was eulogized at his church, West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia, by family and colleagues. The service was preceded by a viewing and followed by a procession to Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home, where Ervin will be cremated.
Sheriff Craig Owens called Sept. 8 "a day forever etched in our souls," and expressed his sorrow to Ervin's wife. He told Ervin's daughters their father loved them, and was "the kind of dad every good man strives to be."
"I know this has been a very emotional last seven days for all of us," Owens said. "We have asked questions only a higher power can answer. We have cried, we have laughed together, and we have definitely leaned on each other. I want all of my law enforcement family here to know, and especially those in the Cobb County Sheriff's Office, there is power and strength in vulnerability, and acknowledging the pain and heartache that we feel. And together, we will become stronger in broken places."
Ervin is survived by his wife, Jodi Ervin of Dallas, and two daughters, Mayleigh, 13, and Kourtlee, 11. He is also survived by two sisters, a brother, nieces, nephews and other family.
The Ervins were high school sweethearts at East Paulding High, and began dating when they were 17, some two decades ago.
In her letter, Jodi Ervin described the deputy as the mellow half of their relationship. Many times, she asked him, "Marshall Ervin, why are you so good to me?"
One story Bloye recounted from Jodi Ervin's letter drew big laughs. On a recent beach vacation, the couple stood together in the ocean. Ervin's wife told him that many people in her life loved her unconditionally, but that her spouse woke up every day and chose her.
"Of course I do," he told her. "You're my sweet a— gal."
Marshall Samual Ervin Jr. was born May 21, 1984. Pastor Bloye said Ervin's own parents died when he was young, so he was raised mostly by his older sister, Toni Harkins. Those circumstances motivated him to be a present and loving father to his daughters. He made sure to be at every softball game and cheerleading competition. Often, he would walk in the house, and despite a long day, would immediately sit down to play with them.
"He was exhausted from work but never too tired for his babies," Jodi Ervin wrote. "... Our kids were everything to him."
The deputy was also a pillar of his neighborhood. He pitched softballs and taught other kids how to ride a bike. Some 500 popsicles remain in the Ervin freezer, because he would host "popsicle Fridays," (later moved to Sunday when his schedule changed). The neighbor's kids would play in the Ervins' yard, and he would distribute popsicles as he enjoyed a beer with the other dads.
Ervin loved the outdoors, especially being in the yard with his girls. He drank his morning coffee in the driveway, leaning against his truck, and kept a TV in the garage, just to be outside. Often, he'd go to a nearby pond to fish before work, even if for only 15 minutes.
Just hours before his death, Ervin had sent photos of a "monster" bass that he had caught to friends. He had been hunting the fish for three years before he hooked it.
Described as a devout Christian, Ervin came to his faith later than some. He was baptized at the age of 19 or 20, Bloye said.
"I know that he would want each of us to make that same decision that he made as a child years ago, to trust in Jesus Christ to be his personal savior," Bloye said.
Ervin, who joined the sheriff's office in 2012, was remembered as a deputy who sought to improve ties between law enforcement and the community. In his patrol car, he kept frisbees and chalk to give to kids he met on duty.
Recently, law enforcement responded to a situation involving a mother and her daughter. The girl has extreme autism. Ervin, Bloye was told, was the only person who could calm the girl down.
Cobb Sheriff's Lt. Christopher Leger, Ervin's commanding officer, said that Ervin had a characteristic smile. When Ervin was assigned to Leger's unit, Leger recognized him, but couldn't quite place him. After speaking with him, the lieutenant realized they had gone to the same high school.
Ervin's pallbearers, Leger said, worked with him in the sheriff's office's south annex, part of a close-knit team.
"This loss is impacting us in ways I can't comprehend right now," Leger said.
Leger just yesterday eulogized Koleski at his funeral in Kennesaw. Reflecting on the loss of two of his men, Leger said Thursday was a day to focus on their lives, not their last moments.
"That wicked man will not take anything else from me or my men," Leger said. "That's my promise. He took two of my best friends. He took two great family men. He gets nothing else from us."
According to investigators, Koleski and Ervin were gunned down while serving a failure to appear warrant related to a theft case. The shooting occurred in a quiet west Cobb subdivision, shocking neighbors. Two men were arrested that night, including Christopher Golden, who police have accused of murdering the deputies.
Behind the stage where eulogies were delivered, a blue line was displayed. Two deputies stood guard beside Ervin's flag-draped casket.
The service included a slideshow of family photos. Two musicians played guitar and sang "I'll Fly Away" and "Amazing Grace."
Like Koleski's funeral yesterday, the service attracted law enforcement from all over the state, and several metro Atlanta sheriffs. Gov. Brian Kemp, who ordered flags to fly at half staff at the state Capitol and in Cobb County Wednesday and Thursday, attended the services of both deputies.
Following the service, Ervin's casket was taken outside by pallbearers. In an emotional moment, bagpipe players performed "Amazing Grace." A 21-gun salute was performed, and as buglers played taps, the flag that draped the coffin was folded and presented to Ervin's family.
Bloye addressed those in the crowd who may be wondering how best to comfort the grieving family.
"Don't try to give them some profound thought or deep spiritual insight. Just tell them you love them, tell them you're praying for them and tell them a story about how Marshall touched your life," Bloye said.