Clark County deputy’s funeral: ‘Strength is Yates’ legacy’

A nearly two-hour service Monday afternoon full of music, tears, laughter and memories honored the life of a Clark County deputy.

Matthew Eugene Yates, 41, was killed in the line of duty July 24 responding to a shooting in Harmony Twp.

ExplorePHOTOS: Funeral services for fallen Deputy Matthew Yates

Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett called Yates “a warrior” in law enforcement, but also a gentle giant and a lover of jokes. She said his co-workers never knew what he would say over the police radio to get a laugh.

“He devoted his life to making his community better,” Burchett said. “Matthew would be overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for him,” she said.

About 2000 mourners attended the funeral service, and hundreds of additional mourners watched the service on a livestream feed from the Littleton & Rue Funeral Home and Crematory or Dayton television stations.

“Since the tragic events of July 24, I heard many people say that Matt was a hero,” Pastor Bruce Sigman said during funeral services. “May I propose to you that Matt was not a hero, but is a hero. …

“As long as we keep our memories of Matt in our hearts and in our minds, he will always be a hero,” Sigman said.

ExploreCommunity turns out for slain Clark County deputy’s visitation

Yate’s cousin, Doug Toles Jr., gave a few words before singing at the service.

“The true meaning of a champion is one who fights for another. In the Champion City of Springfield, Ohio, we all here to honor and pay our respects to a real champion in every sense of the word: my cousin, Matt.” he said.

He respected Yates for greatly taking after his personal hero, Eugene Yates, who is his uncle and his cousin’s father.

“And Matt grew up in his father’s image,” Toles said.

Eugene Yates was a veteran of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He said on Monday that he didn’t initially want his son to go into law enforcement, but he thought Matt “turned out great.”

Brothers in law enforcement at the sheriff’s office — deputies Fitzroy Lawrence, William Crump, John Loney, Matthew Harris, Sgt. Chad Stalder and Maj. Chris Clark — shared many stories about the Yates’ kindness and mischief. They talked about his love of wrestling, his ability to fall asleep almost anywhere, and his desire to give back to his community.

Lawrence spoke after the camaraderie involving deputies and Springfield police as they offered assistance to the Yates family and supported each other.

Those in the church laughed when Lawrence told a story of how Yates split his uniform pants lifting weights while doing light squats. He then stapled his pants together, and had to wear it that way through the end of his shift.

“Matt was very strong and was always willing to help out in any situation. … It would be impossible to tally the lives Matt has touched in so many different ways,” Lawrence said.

When he got on the police radio, you never knew what he was going to say, and he always kept the shift fun, said Sgt. Chad Stalder.

“When Matt was there you felt extra safe, 100%,” he said.

Clark said July 24 will be a day forever in his memory; every detail including the sights and sounds. He lost a dear friend that day, he said, and described the days following Yates’ death as “an emotional rollercoaster ride” for those who loved him.

Strength is Yates’ legacy, the major said, the strength in his leadership, the strength in his family and his strength in the community.

“He leaves behind a legacy each of us would be proud to achieve,” Clark said. “And I’m going to miss my friend.”

ExploreGrieving mother: Deputy Yates’ death like losing another son

Yates was the only father they ever had, said his stepsons, Anthony and Andrew Reed.

Their family was made whole when Yates married their mother, Tracy, and their younger sister, “AK,” was born, who they said “walks and talks” like her father.

“When you’re in the profession of law enforcement you never know when your last goodbye will be. But this one was too soon. But I know Matt would want us to be strong and make sure everyone is taken care of,” he said. “And we’re going to do exactly that. We love you Matt, and we’ll miss you forever,” Anthony Reed said.

Andrew Reed said he often compared Yates to his favorite superhero, the Incredible Hulk, for his strength, and was the best father he could have asked for.

“He was the same man in the uniform outside the uniform and I respected him for that,” said Andrew Reed, who added that Yates would often tell his family that everything happens for a reason.

“God, help me figure out the reason for this, because I’m lost,” he said.

Pastor Darryl May, one of Yates’ relatives, gave the eulogy for Yates.

He said he was 11 years his senior, and watched Yates grow from an opinionated child to a slick-tongued teenager to a strong-minded adult.

The love and power of Yates is felt throughout the community, May said.

“I just can’t believe how a man can be so impactful,” he said.

Combined ShapeCaption
Clark County Deputy Matthew Yates died in the line of duty on July 24, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Clark County Deputy Matthew Yates died in the line of duty on July 24, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Clark County Deputy Matthew Yates died in the line of duty on July 24, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

After the service, the procession will take Yates’ body from the church to Ferncliff Cemetery, 501 W. McCreight Ave.

Road closures will occur at the following areas for the procession this afternoon:

  • U.S. 68 northbound ramp to state Route 41
  • U.S. 68 northbound and southbound ramps to state Route 334
  • State Route 41 between Upper Valley Pike and Bechtle Avenue.

Mourners wishing to pay their respects are expected along the processional route. Fire trucks with raised aerial ladders are expected to display the American flag.

Mourners filed into First Christian Church on Sunday afternoon and evening for visitation for the public and for law enforcement.

About the Authors