Behind the hearse carrying Ronnie Davis’ casket rolled a dozen Republic Services vehicles on the way to Oak Hill Cemetery.
Included on the Saturday afternoon trip from Ruby Funeral Services & Chapel to Davis’ final resting place after his 21 years of driving for Republic Services and its predecessor companies were several of the blue, 16-ton garbage trucks that pick up residential trash.
At the front of the line of Republic vehicles — trailing the hearse — was the commercial-container truck that Davis, 60, drove for several years before his unexpected death March 24 in Springfield. A black wreath that the company has displayed at its office since Davis’ death was attached to the grille of that truck.
Dispatching vehicles to the funeral and providing volunteer drivers was the company’s way of honoring a hard-working employee, said Dan Winters, Republic’s west-central Illinois general manager.
“This is just employee engagement at its best,” Winters said. He called Davis a “model employee.”
The trucks tooted their horns as they drove away from the cemetery.
It’s not often that Republic, which was previously known as Allied Waste and before that Capitol Waste, sends out part of its fleet to such an event, Winters said.
But managers and workers at Republic admired and valued Davis’ work ethic and wanted their friend’s family to know that, Winters said.
Davis, who drove for the now-defunct Lasley Disposal Co. for more than 15 years before he began working for one of Republic’s predecessors, lost consciousness at home March 24 at his Springfield home and later died, his wife, Pamela, said.
He was in good spirits the day before when he attended a company meeting with fellow employees to review safety procedures, Republic employees at the funeral said. He was commended by the company earlier this year for his safety record and attitude.
It’s not clear what health problem led to his death, Pamela Davis said. An autopsy was conducted but the Sangamon County coroner’s analysis isn’t complete, she said.
The only chronic health condition Ronnie Davis had was high blood pressure, which was controlled with medicine.
Pamela Davis, 50, a building manager specialist for the federal government, said the show of support from Republic for her husband and his family was “awesome.” She added that her husband “really loved” his job.
“Customer service was his thing,” she said. “He was just an awesome man. He loved his kids.”
She said she and her husband, who was born in St. Louis, were married for 10 years and a couple for 20 years before that.
Ronnie Davis’ tenure at Republic included service to commercial and residential customers. In his most recent role, he delivered and removed eight-square-yard metal waste containers for commercial customers, though he filled in for other workers in a variety of jobs when needed.
Loretta Painter, 58, a Republic scale clerk, said Davis’ death was shocking.
He may not have been the fastest worker, but he seldom missed a day of work and did a good job handling both the physical and mental demands of operating heavy machinery, dealing with customers and operating safely in traffic, Painter said.
“It’s just hard to believe,” she said. “These guys who do the garbage removal, they work so hard.”
Republic trucks also showed up for the funeral procession of employee Eugene "Fuzzy" Moore Jr., who died unexpectedly in April 2013 at age 59.
Pamela Davis said her husband, who had two biological children and three stepchildren, liked to fish, listen to blues music and watch television shows — both old and new. His favorite shows included episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” “Family Guy” and “Alaskan Bush People.”
Republic driver John Roher, 51, said he enjoyed Ronnie Davis’ personality.
“That man could make you laugh,” Roher said. “He had all sorts of stories.”
Anther Republic employee, Rob Fagg, 54, said Davis “always made sure the customers were taken care of.”
Eric Brownback, 41, a Republic supervisor, said: “Ronnie would never complain. He was a rare breed.”
About a dozen Republic employees in yellow company shirts sat near the back of a room in the funeral home and listened with more than 100 other mourners as the Rev. Larry Luster of Second Timothy Baptist Church eulogized Davis.
While sad, Davis’ death should remind everyone that despite what they see on television and in the movies, “This life is not forever,” and “It’s time to get right with the Lord.
“Death is an appointment with God you are going to keep,” Luster told the audience. “You can’t change that appointment. It will happen exactly when God wants it to happen."