Cheatham County sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Reece was remembered Tuesday as a man of courage and compassion, a tough lawman and former Marine who loved his family and had a soft side for neglected dogs.

Several hundred people attended the funeral service for Reece at Cornerstone Church Nashville in Madison. Most of them were law enforcement officers from several departments across Middle Tennessee.

There was no graveside service, as Reece’s remains were cremated.

Reece, 50, died at the scene of a car crash Nov. 15, stunning the community.

“Sometimes there’s simply no answers to be found,” Minister Matthew Dotson of Centerville Church of Christ told the gathering Tuesday. “God did not intend for us to know all.”

But there are lessons, according to Dotson, whose wife, Cecily, is a cousin of the former deputy’s widow, Brandi.

“Steve’s life taught us we need to find our courage,” the minister said. “All of us can choose to live courageously. We need to remember, God is with us wherever we go, whatever we do.”

Brink Fidler, who ran a narcotics task force in Nashville that included Reece, said in the eulogy that Reece had a “huge heart” and a “warrior mindset.”

“We spoke a week-and-a-half ago about life being too short,” Fidler said. “We were supposed to go to lunch this week.”

He told two stories of Reece’s police work, saying Reece always had other officers’ backs with his no-nonsense brand of enforcing the law.

Off the job, though, Reece was remembered by Fidler and others as a fun-loving surfer who adored his wife and two children, Jacob and Ali, and cared for neglected dogs.

“That man had a huge heart,” Fidler said.

Reece served in the Marines overseas and joined the Metro police force in 2001. The Pegram resident had been with the Cheatham force for only seven months.

Vince Gill performed a rendition of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” at the service. The Grammy-winning recording artist identified himself simply as a “grateful citizen” and said: “Whenever you need me, don’t be afraid to call.”

Other parts of the 90-minute service included a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and the flag presentation protocol.

The service was shown to the news media on a video feed from the church’s broadcast operation.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Reece died at the scene of the crash on Highway 41A between Pleasant View and Clarksville on Nov. 15 at about 2:15 p.m.

The THP said he was eastbound on Oak Plains Road and ran a stop sign at the intersection with 41A. His department-issued Ford Explorer was struck by a Ford E-250 Econoline van traveling south on the highway.

Cheatham Sheriff Mike Breedlove, who played a large role in the funeral service, appeared to choke up when giving a roadside press conference just hours after the wreck.

“This is the saddest day in Cheatham County,” he said. “We’re hurting tonight, and we’ll be hurting for some time.”

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