Sheriff’s candidate loses life to cancer
With less than five weeks until the general election, Democratic Party nominee for sheriff, Tony Ellis died on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 28 in a Gainesville, Ga. hospital. Ellis’ death came just one week after his confirmed diagnoses of lung cancer.
“I lost part of me,” said Vikki Ellis, after losing her husband so suddenly after 34 years of marriage.
As someone who made a significant impact on the Clay County community, many of those who were close to him cannot say enough good things about him.
“His legacy is one of love and of kindness and truly if I have ever met a man that is the hands and feet of Christ, it was Tony Ellis,” said Stacie Ledford of her close friend and recovery ally.
Countless lives in Clay County have been touched by Ellis’ dedication to law enforcement, his work with the youth at Hayesville Schools, serving as a deacon in his church and his passion for finding ways to help those struggling with addiction come to know recovery.
One of Ellis’ closest friends Fred Green, who served alongside Ellis as a fellow deputy, shares what made Ellis such a great friend and officer.
“Tony was a very good guy. He always did his best to serve his community and was always looking to help people,” said Green.
Beyond his presence in law enforcement in the county since his days as a dispatcher in 1991, Ellis was a jack of all trades as he excelled in carpentry and mechanics, owning Tony’s Garage for many years.
As deputy sheriff, Melvin Cantrell said, “Whatever he tried, he was able to do.”
Just as he enjoyed restoring cars, he loved to see people be restored and come to the Lord and overcome past addictions. Because of this passion of his, Ellis’ family requests that instead of flowers, all memorials be made out to Rock Bottom Recovery and Support as he was an avid member of the group.
“He had a tender heart towards people who had addictions that were trying to recover because society usually looks down on them for the rest of their lives,” said Vikki Ellis.
Ellis would always contribute to Rock Bottom’s Monday night meetings, sharing his belief that every life has value to it and every person has good in them. Ledford shares that RBRS is dedicated to carry on that legacy in the help that they offer to those who need recovery.
His advocacy for recovery led to his leadership of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at the schools during his time serving as a School Resource Officer before taking on a role on the school board. Throughout his time in this community, it was evident how well he cared for the students and knew each of them by name.
“What I admired most about Tony was that he truly invested in all of our kids no matter where they came from, no matter what they looked like, he loved our kids,” said Kathy Andrews, principal of Hayesville Middle School, adding that Ellis was an excellent male role model for them.
More than 500 people showed up for Ellis’ Celebration of Life service Tuesday evening at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
“I humbly appreciate everyone who came. Everyone was so kind and just wrapped me in their love and prayers and I just don’t know how to thank them,” said Vikki Ellis.
Offering a glimmer of hope in a tragic time of loss was Rev. Phil Goble who shared the story of Tony Ellis’ last moments during the service. In the hospital room, Ellis was breathing with the assistance of a machine. Before turning it off, Tony looked to his wife, Vikki to ask if she would be OK. Once she said yes, he directed his eyes to the ceiling. He looked left, looked right and with a warm smile, he gave a thumbs up and took his last breath.