The Auburn area continued to mourn this week the passing of native son and Lee County Commissioner Johnny Lawrence, who died last Friday at the age of 62 after a weeks-long battle with Covid-19.
Lawrence grew up in Auburn, graduating from Auburn City Schools and Auburn University, before serving as a firefighter in Auburn for nearly 30 years. He served on the Lee County Commission since 2002.
The news of Lawrence's death hit many in the Auburn community hard, for the loss of a dedicated public servant, a good and supportive friend, and for his wife, Maggie, and daughter, Julia.
The Auburn City Council held a moment of silence in honor of Lawrence at its virtual meeting on Tuesday night.
"Johnny was a fixture in this community for all of his life," said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. "He served our fire department for almost 30 years. He served our county commission for 18 years. He was great guy.
"He wanted his community to be the very best place it could be. If you didn't see him at work or see him in the community, you saw him with a camera strap around his neck, and he was taking photos of different activities going on in Auburn. It is tragic he has died of Covid-19. It's a tragedy and disappointment for our community that Johnny will no longer be with us helping us guide Auburn into the future."
Mayor Pro Tem Beth Witten also expressed how important Lawrence was to the community and the large role he played in inspiring her to become a public servant.
"He really was kind of the conduit for my want and desire to seek service in government and to serve my community," she said. "I just want to thank Julia and Maggie for sharing him with us, and I just pray that we can continue to honor Johnny's love of community and service by being good servants as he has been.
"I just know that in time we'll find the right way to honor him and his memory."
Over the past week, many have remembered Lawrence on social media, with fellow classmates sharing stories and fellow photographers posting photographs of him in action taking shots at Auburn sporting events.
Auburn firefighters also paid tribute to Lawrence, driving their trucks in a parade past his house, as well as accompanying his hearse from the hospital.
Lawrence's wife, Maggie, also offered her thoughts on how best to honor Lawrence, and his belief in pubic service and caring for others, by following the guidelines of health professionals in the battle against Covid-19.
"Wear a mask to protect others and yourself. Johnny wore a mask and believed in them," she posted to Facebook. "Practicing social distancing. Johnny did. Wash your hands often. Johnny did. He did all these things because he cared about others and he would want you all to do the same. He said a mask was about loving your neighbor not about living in fear or politics. The fact that we lost Johnny to this very real, awful disease, in spite of him taking these safeguards, does not mean that his efforts were in vain. It means each of us must practice them more diligently every day until we can reduce the spread of this disease in Lee County, Alabama and our nation — places that Johnny loved with all his heart and was proud to call each home."
Memorial services for Lawrence will be announced at a later date. Donations on his behalf may be made to Auburn United Methodist Church, The Bennie Adkins Foundation, the Food Bank of East Alabama, and the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center.