Even though the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had a vending machine, anytime Sheriff Ronnie Strength got hungry at work he would head to Donnie Chavous’ office.
“We called it Donnie’s Burger Shack,” Strength said. “Most people had two or three meals a day. Donnie had seven.”
Chavous, who retired as a captain over the civil division at the sheriff’s office July 27, died Wednesday. He was 70.
In his 42-year law enforcement career, Chavous also was a deputy, an investigator and a lieutenant with the narcotics division. As a deputy, he was Strength’s first partner on the force.
“You like him from the get-go,” Strength said of his friendship with Chavous. “We saw more of each other than we did our families.”
Chavous’ wife, Cynthia, retired from the sheriff’s office as a lieutenant in the jail on the same day as her husband. She remembered how difficult it was for him to leave.
“He kept picking up the pen and putting back down. Picking it up and putting it down,” she said. “He didn’t want to leave. But he knew he couldn’t do the job as well anymore.”
Chavous fought cancer three times in the past five years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the first time, which he battled with chemotherapy. Three years ago he underwent a stem cell transplant after finding out he had bone marrow cancer. Finally, one week before he retired, he found out he had leukemia.
Strength said he was devastated to lose his friend.
“I don’t have him anymore here with me,” he said. “But I’ll have those memories.”