Derek Chance handled a massive work load as a Cobb County probation officer. He used to tell his mother that he could work 24-7 and still be swamped.
Still, the Gwinnett County native enjoyed the profession and probably would have stuck with law enforcement as a career, said his mother, JoAnn T. Chance of Jacksonville, Fla.
"The case load ate him alive, but he loved his co-workers and they loved him," she said. "Every once in a while he would say, ‘Mom, I think I got through to that guy.' It didn't happen often, but often enough to make him feel as if he were making a difference."
On the job, Mr. Chance was a quick study, said Pam Rittweger, the chief probation officer for the Cobb County circuit. He started out on the court team where he was assigned to a specific judge to learn the system.
"It was apparent that he was learning quickly and was interested in the job, so we moved him to the intensive officer system in which you see the offender more often and the offender has more requirements to meet," she said. "We also sent him through instructor training, and he became a firearms instructor. He was very proficient at that."
Last weekend, Derek Roland Chance of Atlanta attended a friend's wedding held in Sarasota, Fla. He was playing golf on Saturday with high school pals when he suffered a massive heart attack. He was 29. The funeral will be 2 p.m. today in the chapel of Quinn-Shalz Funeral Home in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. He will be buried in the Ponte Vedra Valley Cemetery in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Mr. Chance was a 1999 graduate of Lilburn's Parkview High, where he was a Panthers' wrestler and running back. He had always been into water sports and as a teen spent weekends skiing and wake boarding at a family residence on Lake Hartwell.
"For his size, he was an unbelievably strong person," said Jimmy Breland, a childhood friend who lives in Hilton Head, S.C. "But he had that agility too, which made him really good at Extreme sports."
In 2000, Mr. Chance enrolled at Georgia State University, then took a year off to enjoy winter sports in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was there during the 2002 Winter Olympics and attended some events.
"He spent a year waiting tables by night and snowboarding by day," his mother said. "He did that for a year, then promised me that he would get back in college, and he did."
Mr. Chance earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University in 2004, and was hired as a Cobb County probation officer in Dec. 2005.
"One of the amazing things that hit home with me since Derek's passing is the people from all over the state who knew him as an instructor at the firing range or from class," Mrs. Rittweger said. "From the very beginning, he was a great employee."
Mr. Chance appeared to be in ideal health, but doctors told relatives he had 100 percent blockage on the left side of his heart and 80 percent on the other.
"He had absolutely no symptoms," his mother said.
Additional survivors include his father, Danny D. Chance of Lilburn; and a paternal grandmother, Sarah Chance Hoodof Selma, Ala.
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