Leon Berrong, father of Blount County Sheriff James Berrong and a founding member of Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, died Feb. 18 at his home. He was 82.
Sheriff Berrong said his father passed away at about 2:30 p.m. “He had Alzheimer’s disease the last few years and he had other medical issues associated with that. His system slowly, but surely shut down,” he said.
Leon Berrong was a Blount County native. “He grew up next to Everett High School, played high school sports and was very active in the community,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff said his father was active in church, was a deacon at First Baptist Church of Maryville, was on the Blount Memorial Hospital board and was active in civic groups and public service. “He was on the Blount County Commission from 1969 to ‘75. When we moved out of our district in the City of Maryville to the golf course, he resigned his commission seat,” the sheriff said.
Like many in his family, Berrong was a teacher and a coach. “He was teaching at Greenville High School when I was born. He moved back to Maryville and worked for Vulcan Materials for 20 years and worked at a couple of asphalt and crushed stone companies,” James Berrong said.
Lambert Acres Golf Course was started on a farm owned by the sheriff’s grandfather. Leon operated the golf course while still working his full-time job. “He always had a full-time job,” the sheriff said. “When you are in the golf business, you have to have a full time job, too. He really didn’t start playing golf until we built the course. He played until the late 1990s.”
Sheriff Berrong said his father had a big influence on him, his brother Nick Berrong and other young people in the community. “He was such an influence. He instilled so much in us. He was so kind and helpful to so many people and did things I didn’t even know about. The past few days, people have told me about how he helped them throughout their lives,” the sheriff said.
Sheriff Berrong said when he first ran for office, he thought the Lanier Community would be the area where he would get the least support because he didn’t know many residents in that area. It turned out to be the community the supported him the most because residents knew his father.
“Every door I knocked on that day, the residents asked me if I was Leon’s son. I ran to Brickmill Market and called my campaign manager, Peggy Lambert, and said, ‘I think we’re pretty strong in Lanier,’” he said.
That was the way residents reacted throughout Blount County, Berrong said. “When I knocked on a door, the first question they asked was if I was Leon’s son. When I said yes, they would tell me I had their support,” he said.
The sheriff said his father was a man of his word. “If he told you something, it was done. It didn’t matter if he lost money; if he shook your hand, it was done,” the sheriff said. “He made a big impact. He was an honorable, Christian man.”
Sheriff Berrong said his father helped start Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission because of his love of sports and children. “He thought if kids were playing sports, they would stay out of trouble,” the sheriff said. “He wanted to develop opportunities for everybody to be able to play sports.”
Leon Berrong is survived by Lynn Berrong, his wife of 56 years; his sons James and Nick; and grandchildren, Caroline and Chad Berrong.
The sheriff said friends can call at their convenience to sign the condolence book at Smith Mortuary but no visitation is planned. The family will have a short graveside service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to First Baptist Church of Maryville, Pleasant Grove Baptist or the Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation Leon Berrong Scholarship Fund. The fund was established to allow less fortunate children in the community the opportunity to participate in the Parks and Rec programs.
On Thursday night, the Blount County Commission observed a moment of silence for Leon Berrong.
“The thoughts and prayers for us have just been overwhelming,” the sheriff said. “I thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. We appreciate their support in this emotional time.”