Kind. Sensitive. Talented. Hard-working. Ornery.
Family and friends of Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Coulter remembered him with those words, among many others, at his funeral Monday morning at his church, Sagebrush Church on Coors Boulevard in Albuquerque. The funeral concluded with a fly-over by helicopters from Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Lifeguard Air Emergency Services.
Coulter, 56, died of a medical problem March 26 while on duty.
Sheriff Jesse James Casaus, said law enforcement was Coulter’s calling and he would help anyone “in a heartbeat.”
“Dennis was a real, genuinely good-hearted person who never did anything for personal gain or expected anything in return,” Casaus said.
He recalled Coulter introducing himself as “Dennis the Menace” and giving a funny salute to say hello and goodbye. Casaus said Coulter had become a part of his family, especially a big brother to his daughter Presleigh.
“Dennis is gone from us today, but his life and service will never be forgotten,” Casaus said.
Tim Evans, a long-time friend of Coulter, shared his memories and those he’d collected from Coulter’s family.
Those recollections included Coulter playing with his nieces when they were small and joking with them when they were older; having long hair years ago; turning his back to the camera when posing for group pictures; loving animals; and as the youngest of five children, maintaining strong bonds with his family.
“Dennis was a craftsman when it came to setting tile, although he hated it from the very first day,” Evans said.
Coulter and his wife, Vanessa, had been married for 24 years. Evans said she told him there were no words to describe who Coulter had been to her as a man and a husband.
“He was tender and compassionate with the ones he loved,” Evans said. “He had a wry sense of humor and a strong desire to try new things.”
Evens also said Coulter was talented with electronics and liked to help other people with them, partially because he enjoyed knowing more than they did.
Sandoval County Undersheriff Joe Gonzales, one of Coulter’s training officers, said Coulter wanted to work in law enforcement not just to arrest bad guys, but to make a positive impact on his community.
“Dennis never wanted to make a mistake or let his team down,” Gonzales said. “There was something comforting hearing he was on his way to back me up.”
Gonzales recalled Coulter’s great love for his wife, as well as his love for his Christian faith and his God, which he wasn’t afraid to share.
“Dennis taught us the brevity of life,” Gonzales said. “… We all miss his laughter, his smile and his quick wit.”
Sagebrush Church Pastor James Brown said Coulter had played the drums at six of the church’s eight locations.
When Brown asked Vanessa Coulter to describe her husband with one word, she chose “kind.” One of Coulter’s sisters interjected with the word “ornery.”
Brown shared several Bible verses, including Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength…”
“That’s the strength that (Vanessa) and her family are receiving from God in a time of loss,” Brown said.
Presleigh Casaus, the final speaker, said she met Coulter seven years ago and he became her best friend. She teased Coulter about being too nice, but he was serious about making a positive impact on people.
“It’s the only thing he could leave behind, he said,” Presleigh Casaus recalled, adding that she’d miss his funny work stories, corny jokes and habit of keeping people talking even when they needed to go. “I’m going to miss a true, one-of-a-kind friend.”