Smith died Wednesday at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth after suffering for weeks with COVID-19.
New York Mills Police Chief Bobby Berndt said throughout the trip, officers, deputies, firefighters and others joined the procession to pay their respects to Smith, with as many as 30 to 40 squad cars or fire trucks traveling together at one time. Berndt worked with Smith in various capacities for a number of years.
Ron Smith, a New York Mills police officer, died Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, of COVID-19.
“He was the definition of community policing, and anybody you talk to will tell you that he made a lasting impression on everybody,” Berndt said by phone as the caravan completed the final miles of its trek. “He can talk about anything and he was uplifting. Even the bad guys liked him, believe it or not — it’s crazy. All the kids liked him. He was just a very uplifting guy who loved Jesus.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow. … It’s gonna be hard to get over this.”
Rural Browerville resident Smith, 58, served 14 years in law enforcement, including as a police officer in New York Mills, Perham and Wadena, as chief of the Motley Police Department and as a part-time deputy with the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office. He also worked as a probation agent for Todd-Wadena Community Corrections.
— New York Mills Police Chief Bobby Berndt
Smith first became sick with COVID-19 on Nov. 9 and was admitted to Lakewood Health System in Staples on Nov. 26. He was put on a ventilator at that time to help him breathe. He was later transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, where he remained on machines until Wednesday.
From previous corrections clients to fellow law enforcement peers, Smith was well-respected, said Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr.
Ron Smith was recognized as an Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer by the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition while serving the Perham Police Department.
During Carr’s time as a patrol deputy, he sometimes rode with Smith and answered Smith’s questions about policing. Carr said Smith had a “burning desire” to make the switch from corrections to law enforcement at about 40 years old.
“It doesn’t matter who he deals with … he’s just got a good disposition about him,” Carr said before Smith’s death.
— Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr
“Ron is a wonderful guy and has been a part of our communities giving back,” the Wadena Fire Department posted in a Facebook post during Smith’s hospitalization.
“One thing about Ron that I’ve always admired and liked about Ron was his character and his faith, (he’s a) very strong person that way,” Carr said.
To support the Smith family, they encourage prayers. A GoFundMe donation page is also available.
A funeral service will take place 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Motley Free Methodist Church, 33 Wellwood St. E., according to Smith’s obituary from Iten Funeral Home. Visitation will take place one hour …….