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Viola mayor, fair president dies at age 47
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Longtime Viola Mayor, Viola Valley Volunteer Fire Chief and Warren County A&L Fair president Kevin Lawrence, 47, died Sunday, March 5, at St. Thomas Hospital following a massive stroke.
Lawrence had been a patient at St. Thomas since Feb. 28 when he was airlifted to the facility after neighbors found him unresponsive at his home. Doctors never determined what put Lawrence in the hospital initially. However, he suffered a massive stroke while in the hospital from which he could not recover.
“I have lost a true friend,” said Steven D. Helton, who served with Lawrence on the fair board and with the volunteer fire department. “I knew Kevin my entire life. To say there is going to be a void is an understatement. It is going to be hard for this community to fill his shoes. If we could all model our lives after Kevin’s life, the world would become a better place. He volunteered so much of his time for so many organizations. Whatever organization he was involved with, he typically held a position. He was a true leader. He did not get paid for being mayor, fire chief of Viola, president of the fair, or any of them. How do you measure all those hours of service?”
McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley said, “He devoted his life to helping others and he also risked his life to help others. He was like a brother to his fellow firefighters and like a father figure to many young people on the fair board. He was the template to what a public servant should be. He will never be forgotten. Everybody who worked with him was inspired by his energy. His commitment to the fair is what makes our fair so great.”
Kenneth Medlin, vice president of the Warren County A&L Fair said, “He will be dearly missed. He cannot be replaced. The fair will not be the same without him.”
Lawrence turned 47 on March 1, one day after entering St. Thomas. He graduated with the class of 1984 from Warren County Senior High School.
Lawrence served 25 years with McMinnville Fire Department, working his way to fire chief. Lawrence was hired by the city on March 23, 1986 as a firefighter. He rose through the ranks, being named fire marshal and serving as fire chief from 2000-2011.
Lawrence was a life-long resident of the Viola community, serving his community as a volunteer with the Viola Valley Homecoming Committee and helping with the annual decoration at Mt. Zion Cemetery.
Lawrence served on the Tennessee Association of Fairs since 1996, serving on the board, as vice president and as president in 2006.
Emily Pitcock, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Fairs said, “Kevin was one of my right-hand people. He was very dedicated to the fair. He loved the fair. It was kind of his life. He was one-of-a-kind.”
Tennessee Fire Chief’s Association president Daryl Blair said, “Kevin was a tremendous person. He was an all-around great guy. I enjoyed being around him. He will be sadly missed.”
Warren County Executive John Pelham said, “For as long as I have known Kevin, he has been a leader in action … a leader in every definition of the word. He was a professional and a gentleman who volunteered his time and services not only to the Viola community but to all of Warren County.”
Obituary information for Mr. Lawrence can be found on page 2-A.