MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Madisonville Police Chief Gregg Breeden passed away Sunday morning, according to Madisonville Mayor Glenn Moser.
Those who were close to Breeden said he died unexpectedly, although he had been battling cancer since the start of the year.
Moser said he and Breeden started working for the city around the same time.
Breeden started working for the Madisonville Police Department in 1994, and later became the chief of police in 2001.
Moser said Breeden was a gentleman with a soft heart and truly knew what public service was all about.
“Gregg is a person that’s always had the community at heart. Especially kids,” Moser said.
Melissa Graves, part-owner of Donna’s Cafe and wife of a Madisonville officer, said Breeden would do anything for anyone, especially his work family.
Two of her fondest memories of Breeden were from the first year of her and her husband’s marriage.
Graves said she and her husband planned to elope outside the courthouse.
She let some friends knew, but when time came for them to get married, Graves said she saw a line of flashing lights drive down the street.
“In rolled all the police cars and the fire trucks. We probably had 50 people show up for our elopement. Gregg was part of that,” Graves said.
A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant with their first child, and around the same time her husband was called to serve for the National Guard.
She was suddenly alone, taking care of her three kids, her husband’s three kids and a newborn.
Turned out, she wasn’t alone.
Graves said Breeden always asked if she needed anything.
When it came time for her husband to come home for the first time since being deployed, Breeden and fellow officers stepped up again.
“His flight got delayed in Atlanta and it was going to be the first time he got to see his baby girl. She was almost six months old…Several of the guys drove to Atlanta to pick him up, and then some of the other guys went to Knoxville to pick up his luggage and they all met back here (Donna’s Cafe) to have this reunion with family,” Graves said.
Both Moser and Graves said Breeden changed policing in Madisonville.
“Over the last 20-something years we have been able to increase the amount of police officers. He designed a patrol pattern where he had policemen throughout our community in different neighborhoods on a regular basis,” Moser said.
Graves said Breeden knew how to lead and bring the department into the future.
“If you met him and he asked you to do something, I promise you in five minutes you would be doing it. I mean, he just had that kind of nature. It was a contagious spirit for doing things for the city. I’m sure it will take several men to cover the things he had going in that department,” Graves said.
She said Breeden was all about helping the kids in the community, and that was one reason for the community policing effort.
“For us to be in a lower income community, with no movie theaters and nothing to do, that we have to have things that are positive to keep our kids going in the right direction. And so, I think truly he believed that if he started and made on impression on one child, then he could change the future and that changes the future of this community,” Graves said.
If Breeden wasn’t working as a police chief, he was finding ways to donate time and resources to the children.
Graves said he went all out with food and candy for the city’s Halloween festivities, started the Cops N’ Kids Fishing Rodeo and went all out for Toys for Tots around Christmas time.
Sharon Brown with Monroe County Buzz and family friend of the Breeden’s, said he went above and beyond for the Toys for Tots drive, which he started along with former MPD Sgt. Gudger “Bill” Bivins.
“The MPD Toys for Tots has never been limited to only children and families in Madisonville. If a family from anywhere in the county had a need that could be met, it would be. He spent countless hours collecting donations, enjoyed shopping for toys and clothing, and if he found a good deal, if need be he would travel to fill a trailer with toys and items for the Toys for Tots distributions,” Brown said.
Graves said Breeden would have the MPD officers work as servers at Donna’s Cafe for a lunch shift to raise money for Toys for Tots.
She said not only were the officers some of the best wait staff they’d ever had, but Breeden was great at bringing the community together to donate thousands of dollars just on that one shift.
“Over the years, the Toys for Tots went from what people would give them. They would clean up and fix and paint bicycles and this that and another, to the money that they would raise in that people would donate, to going in department stores and buying out whole toy pallets,” Graves said.
Toys for Tots was such a big part of Breeden’s legacy, Brown said the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Madisonville Police Toys for Tots.
Graves, Brown and Moser said everyone is willing to continue Toys for Tots in honor of Breeden.
Graves said she knows this year will be the hardest on the officers, but she hopes they can go big in memory of Breeden.
Brown said Breeden didn’t only help children. He truly cared about everyone in the community.
“During the holidays, he and officers always visited with older citizens and those with special needs to say hello and leave fruit bags. Gregg was a servant’s heart personified,” Brown said.
Services for Breeden start at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Kyker Funeral Home in Sweetwater.
His obituary can be found on the funeral home’s website here.