SEBRING — The Rev. Collis Fogle, a former deputy and a pioneer of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office chaplain program, died Sunday at age 72.
Fogle earned the Purple Heart as an Army Ranger in Vietnam, joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1979 under Sheriff Joe Sheppard, served for many years as an auxiliary and part-time deputy, then left the agency to become an ordained minister, following in the footsteps of his father.
Former Sheriff Howard “Howie” Godwin said Fogle was there during 15 of his 16 years with the agency. When Godwin was there, Fogle spent a year with the drug enforcement unit then became a chaplain.
Godwin said when Fogle approached him around 1990 with the idea to come back to the agency as a chaplain, he wasn’t the first clergyman to work with the HCSO, but made the position into what it is today.
“He served not only in the jail, but also the members and the public as a victim’s advocate,” Godwin said. “He gave us a lot of spiritual guidance and brought calm to a lot of tough situations.”
One such situation came in 1995 when Capt. Robert Hopton and Inspector James Rodgers died in the line of duty when the HCSO airplane crashed while tracking a burglary suspect near Lake Istokpoga.
Fogle delivered a sermon and their memorial service.
Former Sheriff Susan Benton, who succeeded Godwin, said one thing that was amazing about Fogle was how much of a no-nonsense soldier he was, as well as being a spiritual man.
“You couldn’t leave a room after he gave a sermon or a prayer without feeling moved,” Benton said.
Godwin went further to say that Fogle even brought healing. Many times when he prayed over people or on matters, “things got healed,” Godwin said.
“There’s so much that words don’t even describe the kind of man he was,” Godwin said.
Godwin said that military training remained with Fogle through his work ethic, always arriving early.
Former Col./Undersheriff Mark Schrader, now Avon Park city manager, also recalled how Fogle dressed in a military style — always tactical — with an Army Rangers cap.
“I [always] thought highly of him for his service to our country,” Schrader said.
Fogle was kind, intelligent and wise, said Godwin, who often took Fogle’s advice.
“He never would take a paycheck, either, even though he worked countless hours,” Godwin said. “He was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He was tough but kind. He was godly and one of the best friends a person could have. He was a saint to me.”
Godwin also recalled that he and Fogle played music together, in a band called “Dandy Deputies” under Sheppard’s administration.
Retired Maj. Booker Johnson said Fogle was committed to the task the Lord had put on him to do — to minister to inmates and members of the agency.
“He gave back to the community,” Booker said.
Sheriff Paul Blackman commended Fogle as a mentor for many young deputies as well as a great community liaison for the Sheriff’s Office.
“I want to send condolences to all of his family,” Blackman said. “The community lost a great man when Rev. Fogle went home to be with the Lord.”
Fogle was preceded in death by his wife, Velma.
Due to COVID-19 concerns, space limitations and a large number of mourners, a private funeral service will be today at 10:30 a.m., available to see via livestream through the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook.