EARLY — Family members of former Brown County Sheriff Bobby Grubbs joined a large group of law enforcement members and other friends and colleagues Thursday morning at McDonald Park in Early, where they dedicated a memorial bench in honor of the late sheriff.

Grubbs, a former Texas Ranger who was elected sheriff in 2004, died in 2015 at age 70. He was serving his third term as sheriff and had indicated he would not be seeking a fourth.

Community members have donated money for several benches at McDonald Park in honor of deceased loved ones who called Early home. Brown County Precinct 3 Constable Roy Parrack and his wife, Charlotte, organized an effort to have a bench installed at the park in honor of Grubbs. Several donors sponsored the bench, which bears Grubbs’ name and likenesses of his Ranger and sheriff badges.

Grubbs’ wife, Joy, his daughter and son-in-law, Jannell and David Johnson of Brownwood and the Johnsons’ 16-year-old daughter, Abby, attended the dedication. Their son Ben, 18, was out of town.

David Johnson was the only member of Grubbs’ family who knew in advance about the dedication, which was intended as a surprise for the rest of the family. Johnson drove the family to the park without revealing where they were going or why.

Joy Grubbs said she suspected their trip had something to do with her husband, although she did not know McDonald Park was the destination until the family arrived and saw the waiting crowd.

“We’re here to honor a great man,” Early City Administrator Tony Aaron, who worked under Grubbs as a deputy, said after Grubbs family members arrived.

Some knew Grubbs as a friend or co-worker, and “we may just know him by his reputation,” Aaron said. “This bench is not just about who he was or what he did for our community. It’s more about what he continues to do through the lives of those people that he was involved with. Whether it’s family or co-workers, or people that he mentored, he made an impact that carries on to this day, and that’s what this bench is about — a celebration of that continuing impact on our community.”

Aaron, at times becoming emotional, described what Grubbs had taught him including “we all answer to somebody, no matter how big we get. I learned that lesson straightforward with Bobby Grubbs,” Aaron said.

“As we go through life, we always have that person we’re responsible to — whether it’s a supervisor, whether it’s a board, whether it’s our family or whether it’s the Lord Jesus Christ, so that kind of carries with me.”

Aaron also said Grubbs “taught you to ride for the brand, and what that means is, you buy in. If you’re going to do something, you do it 100 percent, and you stand up for what that brand means.”

Aaron said Grubbs taught him that “you need to be the best version of yourself. He inspired you to be better than what you thought you were. I can tell you right now, if it wasn’t for Bobby Grubbs, I wouldn’t be right here. He taught me to be a better person than I thought I was, to be a better person tomorrow than I am today.”

Joy Grubbs said her husband “loved the guys that worked for him. He wanted to see them better themselves, and he just took them on like they were his children, in a way.”

She drew laughter when she said her husband “growled at his children, just like he did you all. We appreciate everybody so much for doing this. Bob would’ve been so proud.”

She also said her husband felt “really good” about being sheriff and “leading these men and trying to impart to them what he had learned, and encourage them to want to promote and do better each time.”