Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Teresa Fuller often brought therapy animals to interact with students at Rutland Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, where she worked as the school’s resource officer, the school’s principal recalled last week.
Fuller, 55, died Sept. 30 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A large group of first responders from Wilson County escorted her from there to the funeral home in Lebanon, with lights on the cars flashing during the highway motorcade.
Fuller, a 14-year veteran of the WCSO, served as the Rutland SRO for six years. She grew up in Watertown and graduated from Watertown High School in 1984.
“Officer Teresa loved this school fiercely,” Rutland principal Shaunna Davis said last week. “She was proactive in ensuring the safety of our students and staff. Most importantly, she immersed herself in the Rutland community.
“Officer Teresa used her passion to impact our school by bringing her therapy animals. It wasn’t uncommon to see Officer Teresa in the library reading a book to students with the assistance of her miniature therapy horse, Ruger. She would also bring her therapy dog, Darla, to help spread joy to our staff and students or provide some calm during stressful times.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency on two occasions asked her to bring her therapy horse to see its employees — after the March 2020 tornado and during the pandemic. She also visited assisted living centers when residents were isolated in their rooms during the pandemic and brought her mini horse to their windows.
“It brought big smiles to everyone,” WCSO Capt. Scott Moore said.
Davis said that a few years ago, Fuller worked with the Rutland counselors to implement the WHOA (We Help One Another) Bullying Program with fifth grade students. Davis said that Fuller wrote a grant to get a “Buddy Bench” for the school playground, so students had a place to go when they needed a friend at recess.
Rutland students and staff covered Fuller’s patrol car parked at the school with flowers and cards.
“Her contribution to this school will live on as a tribute to her kindness, generosity, and service. Officer Teresa is loved by the entire Rutland community and will be missed greatly,” Davis said.
Wilson County Schools Director Jeff Luttrell issued a statement about Fuller. “Our hearts are very heavy to learn about the passing of Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy/SRO Teresa Fuller,” the statement read. “She was impactful in so many ways to Rutland’s students, teachers, staffs and community. She loved kids with all of her heart and would do anything to protect them, and they absolutely loved her.
“She would always greet them with a smile and be interactive with them throughout any given school day. She just had a heart of gold and she’ll be missed by so many. We send our most sincere thoughts and prayers to her family during this time.”
Fuller began her career with the WCSO in August of 2007 as a corrections officer. She also worked in the department’s court division and mounted patrol before becoming an SRO.
“Deputy Fuller was known throughout the community for having a charitable heart and making a huge impact not only at Rutland Elementary, but throughout the entire community,” Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said in a statement. “Deputy Fuller was the definition of a true servant who volunteered countless hours by giving back to this community in so many ways. … Deputy Fuller had a heart for rescued animals where she would utilize them in therapeutic ways to get messages across for things such as bullying awareness.”
Fuller is survived by her husband James W. Fuller, son Zachary Reeves, stepdaughter Stephanie Reeves, grandchildren Anthony Reeves and Isabella Reeves, father Jerry Harvey, mother Georgia Davenport, twin sister Tamara Felts and brother Jerry Lee Harvey.
Her obituary also named her horses Playboy, Ruger, Charlie and Stoney, and her “faithful furry companions” Zeb Thomas, Darla Jean, Shelby, Penny Layne, Becky and Peyton Manning in the survivors section. The family requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to Hickory Hill Rescue, PO Box 1454, Mt. Juliet TN 37122 or http://Hickoryhillfarmtn.org/donate.
The obituary also described her as a “true cowgirl” and asked everyone attending the funeral at Bethlehem Cemetery last Tuesday to wear boots and blue jeans in her honor.
“It has been truly an honor to have known Teresa both as a supervisor and as a friend. She was loyal to the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Rutland Elementary, family and friends. I can say without a doubt that she made a huge impact in this community and leaves a legacy behind for others to follow. She will always be remembered for bringing smiles to those who needed it the most,” Moore said.