Sioux Falls, SD
Friends and family crammed into one room, some standing and some sitting, to be a part of dedicating the Ronald "RJ" Johnson Training Academy.
South Dakota prison officials renamed the training academy for the corrections officer who was killed a year ago during a botched prison escape.
One could sense a peaceful feeling as people at the ceremony remembered how many lives Johnson touched and how this quality will continue with each year.
The hundreds of people made it hard to see, but you could have heard a pin drop when a plaque honoring Senior Correctional Officer Ron Johnson was given to his wife, Lynette Johnson.
Johnson spent more than 23 years dedicating his life to public service. It is a fitting tribute that all new recruits be trained in his name.
"I'm sure RJ spent most of his days with younger, less experienced correctional officers and helped guide them in their development," SD Dept. Of Corrections Director Denny Kaemingk said.
The dedication was not just about Ron Johnson, the correctional officer. A year after his murder, we are still getting to know the man behind the badge.
"He would sneak into USF football practices to watch his son, Jesse, play. To hear from his daughter Missy, he did not understand why anyone would run a marathon, but he was with her every step of the way. The spirit and relationship he had with Lynette," South Dakota Attorney General Mary Jackley said.
"I spoke with Ron almost daily and we swapped grandchildren stories. We also talked about work. Ron was not one to give up on the most difficult inmates. He always hoped for a good outcome," Director of Prison Operations Doug Weber said.
This spirit will live on.
"May Ron's legacy not be forgotten," Weber said.
Reminders of Johnson are seen all over the building in paintings, photos and signs, but a simple prayer at the end of the ceremony summed up everything the longtime correctional officer believed in and worked for everyday.
"May this facility be a place of safety and excellence."