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“She was as good as gold” : Roadway named to honor fallen Dawson County officer
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Part of Ga. 53 in Hall County has been renamed to remember Dawson County jail officer and Hall County dispatcher Bobbie Sue Hoenie, who was killed in the aftermath of a March 20, 1998 tornado. - photo by Julia Fechter

Twenty-four years after her death, family, friends and colleagues gathered on Aug. 8 to remember an officer killed in the aftermath of a devastating tornado.


A portion of Ga. 53 from the Hall/Forsyth County line to Little Hall Road has been dedicated as the Officer Bobbie S. Hoenie Memorial Highway. The Georgia Department of Transportation has installed signs near that county line and across from the entrance to Little Hall Park. 


This story continues below.

In the early morning of March 20, 1998, a tornado first touched down in northern Hall County just before 6:30 a.m., followed by multiple areas before hitting southern White County. 


Hoenie, 29, had just finished her shift at Dawson County’s jail and was enroute to her part-time job as an E-911 dispatcher in Hall County. 


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Bobbie Sue Hoenie. Courtesy of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

Upon driving into Hall County along Ga. 53, Hoenie stopped to help a driver who’d run off the road and into a ditch, Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson recounted Monday. 


After checking on the occupants, she attempted to clear the roadway of fallen tree debris to prevent further accidents or injuries. While doing this, Hoenie was struck and fatally injured by another vehicle. 


Hoenie was the first of 13 people who died because of the F3 tornado. She had only been with DCSO for three months, Johnson said. 


“This means the world to us. Thank you so much,” said Hoenie’s mother, Louise Gordon. 


“It meant a whole lot that they’re still honoring her memory,” added one of Hoenie’s daughters, Jessica Jones. 

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Dawson County Sheriff Johnson speaks to gathered officers and civilians about Officer Hoenie’s selfless actions before her death. - photo by Julia Fechter

Colleagues of Hoenie’s as well as fellow officers from DCSO, the Gainesville Police Department and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office attended the roadway dedication ceremony. 

State representative Lee Hawkins, who sponsored the road renaming resolution along with three others, also attended.


“It’s not often enough we remember law enforcement,” Hawkins said. “Over time, I think it’s become a much more important thing to remember the people that protect us [with] things that are done everyday out of the kindness of their hearts.” 


Hoenie has also been added to the list of names on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. as well as the Officer Down Memorial Page.


Officer Steven Swofford, who relieved Hoenie of her DCSO job so she could commute to Hall County the morning of the tornado, was at the remembrance event. 


Swofford described Hoenie as “just a down-to-earth, good person.”


“She’d give you the shirt off of her back if you needed it,” he said. “She was good as gold.”

Retired GPD and DCSO Capt. Chad White remembered Hoenie’s selflessness by sharing Bible verses Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” and John 15:13, which states that there’s “no greater love” than for someone to lay down their life for another. 


White reminded the audience of the oath “to serve and protect” that he and other law enforcement officers took when starting their careers. 


“When it comes time to help someone in need, there is no boundary,” White said. “ There's no city limits. There’s no county line, and that’s exactly what happened here 24 years ago, on March 20, 1998, when Bobbie fulfilled her oath.”


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