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Bluefield Police officers carry the coffin of retired Lt. James D. Vance out of the Brushfork Armory after his funeral service on Wednesday.

BLUEFIELD — Memories were shared Wednesday of a man who loved his family, friends and served the community he loved by working for more than 20 years as an officer with the Bluefield Police Department. 

A morning procession of law enforcement vehicles proceeded across Mercer County and concluded at the Brushfork National Guard Armory where funeral services were conducted for the late Lt. James D. Vance, a retired police officer who passed away last week from COVID-19. 

Representatives of law enforcement agencies across the region joined other mourners in offering support and comfort to Vance’s wife, Jerri, and other members of his family. Pastor Sherrill Michael began the service by speaking about how Vance “lived to serve others,” and how the armory would have been filled if not for the ongoing pandemic. 

“James not only lived life. He lived it to the full,” Michael said. “There are many who live for themselves, but James lived to serve others.”

Members of the Bluefield Police Department spoke to the mourners about Vance’s dedication to duty. Cpl. Stuart Swope shared how Vance retired from the department on June 25, 2020 after 23 years of service to his community. He passed away after fighting the virus for a month at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. 

Vance graduated from Princeton Senior High School in 1988 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After he was discharged in 1993, he became a dispatcher at the Bluefield Police Department and rose to the rank of lieutenant.

Swope said that Vance was always ready to use his talents to help others, and how “he never met a stranger.”

Lt. John Whitt read the poem, “A Hero’s Welcome,” by Robert Longley. 

“It is time to come home dear brother,” Whitt recited. “Your tour of duty is through.”

Chief Dennis Dillow, Vance’s fellow officer and lifelong friend, spoke about his friend’s contributions to the community and how he was very much a brother to him.

“He was an asset to the department, he was an asset to the community,” Dillow said.

Dillow said that every man and woman wearing a uniform was part of a family, and how, like Vance, they become a symbol of law and order when they put it on.

Speaking about life before they joined the Bluefield Police Department, Dillow recalled how he met Vance when they were boys and soon became best friends who visited each other’s home and became part of each other’s family. They frequently hunted and fished together, and he shared one adventure involving a bicycle.

Dillow said he loaned Vance his new 10-speed bicycle when he needed to get home after a visit. About a week went by, and Dillow came to Vance’s house with plans to ride his bicycle home.

But the bicycle was in pieces. When Dillow asked Vance why the bike had been taken apart, he had a straightforward answer.

“‘I didn’t like the color and I figured I’d paint it for you,’” Vance replied.

“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Dillow concluded.

Cayley Moulder-Pence sang the hymn “Amazing Grace” after Dillow finished speaking about his friend and fellow officer. 

Officers with the Bluefield Police Department served as an honor guard and pallbearers. 

Entombment followed at the Grandview Memorial Gardens in Bluefield, Va. with military honors under the direction of the U.S. Marines Corps.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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