Black mesh wreaths and bows adorned the front of the Laurel County Fire Department and Ambulance Inc. trucks parked outside Hawk Creek Church on Thursday.
Those were just a few of the vehicles and personnel from first responders in the area who came to pay their final tribute to flight paramedic Herman Lee Dobbs Jr. of London, one of three crew members who died in the June 6 helicopter crash of Air Evac 109.
First responders lined the hallway of the church as the ceremony began Thursday morning, filing by Dobbs’ flag-draped casket and taking their seats. After everyone was seated, the two casket guards — members of the Jefferson Metro Police honor guard who rotated shifts every 15 minutes — took their seats.
Rev. Ronnie Trent, who was Dobbs’ youth pastor during his teen years, described the flight paramedic as “always wide open with everything he did.”
“If you were around Lee, you wouldn’t be bored,” Trent said.
Dobbs was also honored by members from the Air Evac team.
Kristen, a co-worker from Air Evac 109, said his dedication to his job, to serving those in need, and making a difference in lives was the true quality of Dobbs’ character.
“What we lost will keep us in the skies and we will continue to love what we’re doing,” she said.
Another former co-worker from the Knox County EMS told how Dobbs’ was always respectful and compassionate to the patients they served. She told the story of an 83-year-old female patient who was being transported from Corbin to Lexington. The woman and her husband always shared a song over their 50-plus years of marriage as they traveled, but the husband told his wife he couldn’t sing.
But, according to Judy, the former co-worker, as the female was being taken toward the ambulance, Dobbs began singing, “On the Road Again.” When she abruptly stopped and stared at Dobbs, he justified his actions by saying, “Well, her husband said he couldn’t sing!”
“He’s got his wings now,” she continued, “and that’s what we’re going to hold on to.”
The sermon by Rev. Matt Patterson from Dobbs’ hometown in Tennessee emphasized the need to be prepared for unpredictable and unexpected circumstances such as the death of Dobbs and the two other crew members of Air Evac 109 — pilot and former Laurel County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Eddy Sizemore and flight nurse Jesse Jones of Pineville.
“One thing is sure. Lee is in a better place now,” Patterson said. “He’s in a place where there is no sorrow, no pain, and all the tears have been wiped away. Lee is in the presence of God because he trusted in Jesus Christ... You can lose your health, your job, your family but Jesus Christ will not leave you. Turn to Jesus. He’ll get you through.”
First responders stood at attention outside the church as Dobbs’ casket was loaded into an ambulance to be transported to Church Hill, Tenn.
Dobbs had a long resume of employment with emergency service agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky — including approximately one year with Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County and four years with Air Methods medical transport. He received his paramedic license in 1998 and spent the remainder of his life in serving others and saving lives.
Dobbs, who would have celebrated his 41st birthday on Sunday, June 16, leaves behind his wife, Emilee; three sons, Jordan, 22, 11-year-old Hayden and 16-month-old Walker; his parents, Herman Dobbs and Patsy Light Dobbs; and other family and friends.