Ron Smith loses his battle with COVID-19, honored with police escort

By Chad Koenen


A highly respected member of the New York Mills Police Department passed away on Wednesday after an extensive battle with COVID-19. 

Ron Smith, who had served in a number of local communities over the past 14 years, will be remembered as a man who was much more than simply a police officer in NY Mills.

“My definition of Ron is he is the definition of community policing to a T,” said NY Mills Police Chief Bobby Berndt. “He would socialize with the kids. It didn’t matter who they were, or the demographics. He would go out and have a conversation with you and remember your name.”

While Smith was an exceptional cop, Berndt said he was always willing to visit with people and even join a pick up game of basketball, for instance, when he saw a group of people gathered in a playground. 

“He was full of life and stories. He was a glass is half full kind of guy. Everyone enjoyed being around him and he was uplifting,” said Berndt. 

In addition, to being of service in NY Mills, Berndt said Smith was always willing to lend a hand to other officers whenever the need arose.

“He would go to various agencies and back up any time he could, even when he wasn’t requested to back up other officers,” said Berndt. “He got to know people and people loved him.”

Smith was admitted to Lakewood Health System on Nov. 26 and was eventually transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minn., where he remained until his passing on Wednesday. Along the way he was put on a ventilator to help him breathe.

On Thursday, a caravan of law enforcement and other first responders traveled 175 miles to accompany the body of Smith home. Local reports state there were as many as 30 to 40 squad cars or fire trucks that joined the caravan for part of the trip. 

“I thought it was going to be low key, but it ended up being a lot more than I thought,” said Berndt of the procession. “It was breathtaking seeing the covered body come out. (The body) was covered with a flag and everyone was saluting him.”

A rural Browerville resident, Smith, has served as a police officer in NY Mills, Perham and Wadena, as well as the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office and Motley Police Department. He also previously worked as a probation officer for the Todd-Wadena Community Corrections.

A funeral service was held on Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. at the Motley Free Methodist Church. Visitation took place one hour prior to the funeral service at the church and continued immediately following the service.