‘He was incredibly special. He was absolutely a hero.’
Community turns out to say goodbye to Erin Fuller
SHELBY – In his 16 years as a deputy sheriff in Orleans County, Erin Fuller saved many lives and proved an advocate for his fellow deputies, whether at the negotiating table for a union contract and writing successful grants to bring equipment and resources to the Sheriff’s Office.
More than 300 people attended a funeral service for Fuller today at the Shelby Fire Hall, including many police officers from throughout the county and outside Orleans.
Sean-Michael Green served four years in the Marines with Fuller, including a deployment during Desert Storm.
“He was incredibly special,” said Green, who travelled from West Haven, Connecticut for the service today. “He was absolutely a hero.”
Fuller was committed to serving his country, said Green, who first met Fuller at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC.
“Erin was more creative and passionate than your typical Marine,” Green said during the service at the fire hall.
Fuller was 45 when he took his own life a week ago on Sept. 12. His death has shocked with colleagues, friends and family.
His cousin, Doug Fuller, told the crowd at the service that Erin inspired his family by joining the Marines and then serving as a deputy sheriff.
“We’re very proud of Erin,” Doug Fuller said. “He sacrificed and put his life on the line.”
Sheriff Scott Hess spoke at the funeral and said Fuller “proudly served his community.”
Fuller was president of the 23-member Orleans County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. That role put him a “tough spot,” Hess said. Fuller would sometimes butt heads with management while advocating for deputies.
Fuller was re-elected by his deputies year after year to serve as the union leader.
“That speaks to his leadership and commitment,” Hess said.
Fuller wrote the grants that resulted in two new boats for the Marine Patrol. One of the grants he wrote also paid for new boots, sunglasses and sneakers for deputies on the Marine Patrol.
In 2013, Fuller earned his captain’s license to be part of the Marine Patrol. It’s another example of him pushing himself to excel and serve the community, Hess said.
Fuller also was president of the NYS Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which has about 2,000 members. Fuller was a resource to union presidents around the state, offering advice and often traveling to Albany and other counties to speak on behalf of deputies.
“He had the respect of everybody in the association,” said Tom Ross, executive director of the NYS Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Ross worked closely with Fuller and watched him develop into an effective leader for the deputies.
“He was reasonable, and you have to be reasonable,” Ross said. “He wouldn’t keep arguing a point if there was no point in arguing. He could have a rational conversation, figure out the differences and then fnd a solution.”
Chuck Nesbitt, the Orleans County chief administrative officer, said he admired Fuller and respected him as the leader of the local union. Fuller was aware of the county’s budget needs and secured concessions from the deputies while also reaching a deal in their benefit, Nesbitt said.
Lt. Chris Bourke worked closely with Fuller on the Marine Division and also with road patrol. Bourke said Fuller enjoyed a good conversation.
“He liked to debate,” Bourke said. “He would take a position.”
Fuller stepped up in writing the grants to secure the boats for the Marine Patrol, which was a lot of extra work for Fuller.
“He was always for the good of the department and moving us forward,” Bourke said. “He worked hard for the Marine Division, getting us more equipment and raising the professionalism.”
The Rev. Stanley Thurber, retired pastor of the oak Orchard Assembly of God, led today’s service. He said Erin is part of the Fuller family that is heavily involved in serving the community.
Thurber said there is no making sense of Fuller’s death. Thurber said God was with Fuller during his death and has welcomed him.
The pastor shared Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”