HOPEDALE - "He will be missed" were the words of many when asked their thoughts on the death of Richard Paul Rensi, who served as Harrison County sheriff from 1973 until his retirement in 1996.
Rensi, 70, died Tuesday at Akron General Hospital. He was raised in Hopedale and is remembered by residents as a thoughtful and caring person.
Lt. Mark Touville, who was hired before Rensi's retirement, said, "I was hired by the sheriff in 1995 and worked with him until his retirement. He was great to work with. I was just a kid and he gave me a chance."
"Rensi was loved by everyone - the citizens of the county and law enforcement officers near and far alike. He was very well respected and will be missed greatly," Touville said.
After his retirement, he was elected as a Green Township trustee and he stayed on with the sheriff's department as a part-time deputy, according to Touville.
Mark Miller was hired by Rensi as a deputy and then a sergeant while working in the department. He went on to be elected Harrison County sheriff when Rensi retired.
"I became a deputy in 1975 and learned a lot from (Rensi.) He was a good boss and a good person. If something happened in the middle of the night, he got out of bed and went to give help where needed. He and his wife, Verna, lived at the jail, something a county sheriff did back then. She was the matron and a certified deputy as well," he explained.
"We started an Explorers program for the youth during his term in office," Miller said. "He liked working on old cars and would work on the cruisers, too. He was a jack of all trades."
"Rich was a good friend. You couldn't ask for anyone better. He will be sadly missed," Miller concluded.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said, "I have nothing but the greatest respect for Richard Rensi. Before I took office, I went to Rich for education and guidance. I learned so much from him. He was everything a sheriff was supposed to be and a fine person."
"When Sen. Douglas Applegate stepped down from the 30th District, Rensi encouraged me to run for the office. He had that much faith in me. It is my honor now to be a pall-bearer at his funeral, taking him to his final resting place. He will be terribly missed," the sheriff said.
Brooke County Sheriff Richard Ferguson remarked that Rensi was stalwart in his law enforcement profession and an icon in the area.
"I knew him through law enforcement. You would try to look over the hillside at what other sheriff's departments were doing ..." he said. "If you needed him, he was always there, but now another treasure is gone."
Evelyn Clouston of Smithfield, a cousin, said, "Rich was what he was. He was not a fancy man. He wore a brush cut when others wore a longer hairstyle. He was the most honest man I have even known. His handshake meant something."
His hobbies included hunting, fishing and cars. My son, John Clouston, remembered that Rich drove a car transporter tractor trailer to haul the racing cars for Team Rensi, the Bush Series in racing that he and Ed and Sam Rensi were involved with," Evelyn said.
Rensi, who served in the Army from 1966-68 in the 1st Squadron 1st Cavalry, received many medals for his Vietnam combat.
Regarding Rensi's military experiences, Keith W. Nolan, author of "Search and Destroy: A Story of an Armored Cavalry Squadron in Vietnam 1/1 CAV, 1967-1968" mentioned Rensi in several paragraphs of the book.
The back leaf of the book's cover had a quote from Rensi regarding Vietnam. It reads, "If you saw a muzzle flash, you would shoot at it. It you saw what you thought was a flash from a mortar, you would shoot at that, too."
JoSana Maul of Wintersville, echoed the sentiments of her cousin, Evelyn Clouston.
"What you saw was what he was. He was the most unpretentious man I have ever known. Rich was into the sports of his sons, Gary and Bryan, at the high school in Cadiz, but also he helped all the kids."
"I had not seen him since his heart attack three months before and ran into him at Kmart just a week or so ago. We laughed over family things. When Rich laughed, he lit up the room. He was so much fun. He was a senior when I was in the first grade, but he always treated us (cousins) equally and with respect,"she remembered.
"His uncle, Ernie, was a Harrison County deputy until 1970, and Rich continued a proud heritage by following in the same profession," Maul said.
Jay Kolenc of Hopedale remembers Rensi as being a member of the Hopedale American Legion Post 682 and the Hopedale Veterans of Foreign Wars, where he was a longtime member..
"He was a super good person. I have known him 50 years, since school, where he was in classes with my kid brother."
Don Richards of Hopedale knew of Rensi through the Hopedale veterans groups, noting that Rensi was a good worker with the VFW and attended meetings regularly.
"I knew of him from attending Green Township trustee meetings, when I went to discuss problems," he said.
"Rich liked sports and going to gun shows. He liked older model cars, especially Corvettes. He was a gentleman and will be missed," Richards said.
Following retirement from the sheriff's department, Rensi worked part-time at Melv's Mowers in Freeport and Blackburn Funeral Homes. He was a board member of the Harrison Community Hospital, a member of the Cadiz Masonic Lodge, a Harrison Republican Party Committee member, American Rifleman's Association and Buckeye Sheriff's Association.
There will be pall-bearers from several county sheriff's departments today at the Hopedale United Methodist Church. Military honors will be provided by the American Legion Hopedale Post 682.
He is survived by his wife, Verna; two sons; a brother; a sister; and grandchildren.