WILLIAMSBURG — More than 450 people turned out Sunday for the funeral of former Republican state lawmaker Dewayne Bunch, who was hailed as "a man of valor."
Bunch, 50, who died Wednesday, suffered a head injury last year while trying to break up a fight at Whitley County High School, where he was a teacher.
The Rev. Doyle Lester, pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church in Corbin, said it is common for mourners to say good things about someone who has died. But in Bunch's case, "people said good things about him long before he passed," Lester said.
And students and fellow teachers alike "spoke well of him as a person and as a teacher. ... What he did in so many people's lives will live on."
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Bunch resigned from the legislature after he was critically injured in April 2011. He was trying to stop a fight between two students as breakfast was being served at the school, where he had taught math and science for 17 years.
Bunch's wife, Regina, was the only candidate from either party to seek his seat in a special election. She now represents the 82nd District, which includes Whitley County and part of Laurel County.
The teens in the fight were charged with one count each of first-degree assault and two counts of third-degree assault. However, Allen Trimble, commonwealth's attorney for Whitley County, said last week, "In cases such as this, when death occurs during the legal process, it changes the nature of the charges."
Bunch had spent 20 years in the Kentucky National Guard before he was elected in 2010 to the legislature. He also served in Iraq as a first sergeant, and he earned numerous honors.
Gov. Steve Beshear did not attend the funeral, but at the start of Sunday's funeral service, it was announced that the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal had been posthumously awarded to Bunch. The medal marks "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service or achievement," according to a Kentucky National Guard Web site.
Among the state legislators attending the funeral were state Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and state Rep. Danny Ford, R-Mount Vernon.
Also attending were 35 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of veterans who often provide motorcycle escorts at the funerals of service men and women.
During the funeral service, the Rev. Gerald Mullins, a childhood friend of Bunch, noted that an angel of the Lord had called Gideon "a mighty man of valor," and Mullins applied those same words to Bunch. Mullins also sang a song called Nothing to Prove by the vocal trio Phillips, Craig and Dean. Mullins said the song reminded him of Bunch. The lyrics include these lines:
"Now you're gone and all I have
Are memories I hold dear
But if I'm quiet, I have your voice
Still ringin' in my ear
Sayin' live with no excuses
Love without regrets
Laugh a lot and leave this life
With nothing left unsaid."
On the way to Highland Park Cemetery, the funeral procession passed beneath a large American flag hung from the ladder of a firetruck. The cortege passed by numerous Williamsburg residents, who stood silently, some with their hands over their hearts or holding flags.
Ford said after the funeral that he was touched that residents paid tribute to the public servant.
"He was an outstanding individual, which was evident here today by people showing their respects from all walks of life," Ford said.