Willard Robert "Bobby" Ethridge, 63: Former DeKalb County precinct commander

Soon after Bobby Ethridge left the Army, in 1969, he took his training to the DeKalb County Police Department. He worked his way through the ranks for more than 30 years, finally retiring in 1999 from his post as the Tucker precinct commander.

"He learned dedication and discipline in the Army at a very early age, and he brought that same dedication and discipline over to the police force," said friend and retired DeKalb deputy chief, Ron Dykes. "Not only did we have a 30-year professional relationship, but we had a 30 [year] personal relationship. And both were good."

Willard Robert Ethridge, called Bobby by most, of Lawrenceville, died Friday at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, from complications related to cancer. He was 63. His body has been cremated and a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Georgia National Cemetery, Canton, with full military honors. Wages & Sons, Gwinnett Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

A native of Atlanta, Mr. Ethridge earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star while in the military, said Jean Ethridge, his wife of seven years. After joining the DeKalb police in 1969, he decided to get an education and earned an associate's degree from DeKalb College in 1978 and he took later classes at the Woodrow Wilson College of Law. Mrs. Ethridge said her husband considered being an attorney, but decided to stay with the police department. To that end, Mr. Ethridge earned a master's from Georgia State where his thesis, on probable causes for robberies in convenience stores, helped the school get a $19,000 grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, she said.

Within the DeKalb police department, Mr. Ethridge was known for his even temperament, Mr. Dykes said.

"Bobby always handled things in the most professional way, without getting upset. That was just one of the great things about Bobby," he said.

After his retirement, Mr. Ethridge took a part-time job at a Harley Davidson dealership in Stone Mountain. Mr. Ethridge worked there until approximately four years ago, when his body began to fail him, his wife said. Since his retirement, he'd endured complications of diabetes, a double lung transplant and most recently he'd developed cancer.

But even through considerable illness, Mr. Ethridge remained upbeat and enjoyed the friendships he'd established over the years, friends said.

"He always wanted to make people laugh," said friend Rick Morris, of Conyers. "And he did that for me right up until the very end."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Ethridge is survived by his children, Brandi Morris of Alpharetta, Corey Arnold of Bethlehem and Pepper Hutcheson of Gulf Shores, Ala.; stepmother, Kathy Etheridge of Roswell; brother, Jimmy Viallano of Florida; and four grandchildren.