Family and friends laughed and cried together. They shared funny stories and they shared heartbreak. And the hundreds of people who came to remember and to celebrate the life of 24-year-old Ryan Isham left the service Tuesday afternoon with a vivid sense of a young, passionate life snuffed out too soon.
Isham, a Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy, died March 26 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident on U.S. Highway 67 north of Stephenville.
Word of his passing spread quickly among the community last Friday. Isham, who had played basketball at Glen Rose High School and was a well-liked, gregarious young man, had close ties in Glen Rose and, by all accounts, had many, many friends.
Such a large crowd was expected to attend his service that it was held in the exhibition hall of the Somervell County Expo Center where, just a few weeks ago, Isham was having fun at the party after the Glen Rose Pro Rodeo. About 400 people showed up to pay their last respects.
Dr. Michael Davis, who officiated at the service, called it a “time of remembrance, a time of joy, a time to put our hearts at rest.”
Isham was born July 9, 1985, in Fort Worth to Melodie and Randy Isham. He grew up in Glen Rose and graduated from Glen Rose High School in 2003.
After trying several different fields of employment, he finally achieved a lifelong dream and became a licensed Texas law enforcement officer in September 2009 after graduating from Weatherford College Police Academy.
Isham had been working with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department since last November.
Hamilton County Sheriff Gregg Bewley said that the sheriff's department is grieving, too.
“We lost Ryan, but we gained Ryan's family,” he said. “They have lost Ryan, but they have gained a law enforcement family.”
Bewley also recalled that the first time he met Isham, he knew he would become a Texas peace officer.
Isham worked the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift to which most rookies are assigned. He looked forward to the basketball games that members of the department played on Thursday nights.
“I believe Ryan was at every game,” Bewley said. “It was obvious he was the most skilled player.
“The last time most of us saw Ryan was at that basketball game” last week, he added.
Bewley and Somervell County Sheriff Greg Doyle had the task of breaking the news of his death to the Isham family. They also told other friends, including Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Tovar. The two had become fast friends after Isham joined the department.
Bewley said he recovered Isham's badge at the accident scene. “I remember giving that to Ryan back in November,” he told the crowd.
Now Tovar will wear the badge in his friend's honor, while Bewley will keep Isham's service record in his holster.
“Ryan will be riding with me,” Bewley said. “The truth is, Ryan will be with us always in our minds and our hearts. I have a view of the officer he would become. He was on the way to developing the skills and confidence” to become a good officer.
“Ryan was the kind of man who makes a difference,” the sheriff added. “He put himself in harm's way to protect others. He attained that goal and he fulfilled that dream.”
Tovar, who also spoke at the service, noted that he and Isham often hung out together and had a lot of fun. Isham would play pranks on him and at first he thought perhaps his friend was playing another joke when the sheriff's told him of Isham's accident.
“Life can change in the blink of an eye,” Tovar said. “Just remember what you have and who you have.”
Other friends recalled how much Isham also enjoyed fishing and dancing. He was looking forward to attending the Larry Joe Taylor Music Festival in Stephenville again this year.
Davis concluded the service by quoting a line from English poet Alexander Pope: “He who dies in youth and vigor dies best, and dies of nothing but a rage to live.”
“From what I hear of Ryan, he had that rage to live – to live life to the fullest, to grab for all the gusto he could get,” Davis said.
Isham was preceded in death by grandparents Glenn and Dorothie Isham, and Sam and Jewell Speight, as well an aunt, Patricia Tinsley.
In addition to his parents, survivors include a brother, Brad Isham, of Glen Rose; uncles Johnnie Isham and wife, Casey, of Fort Worth, Garry Isham and wife, Pamela, of Winnsboro, Gerry Isham of Fort Worth, Jim Tinsley of Fort Worth and Sam Speight of Weatherford; cousins Carly Martin of Burleson, Mariah Isham of Fort Worth, Jacob Speight of Joshua; special cousin and friend, Michelle Thom, of Fort Worth; and his fellow officers and co-workers and many friends.
Donations can be made to the Somervell County Fire/EMS Department, P.O. Box 279, Glen Rose, Texas 76043.