FORT LAWN -- Thousands of people and their pets lost a dedicated caretaker and leader Monday.
Longtime Fort Lawn veterinarian Dr. William "Bill" Lazenby, chairman of the Chester County Rural Fire Board and owner of Fort Lawn Animal Clinic, died Monday. He was 56.
Authorities said Lazenby suffered a heart attack while riding his bicycle Monday morning. Those who knew him well said the veterinarian began his day with a bike ride from his Fort Lawn clinic to Richburg and back.
Lazenby's unexpected death robbed Fort Lawn of one of its most beloved animal caretakers.
"He loved caring for animals, and that's always been what he loved to do," said his wife, Gweneth Lazenby. "He dedicated his life to veterinary medicine."
Gweneth Lazenby said her husband opened his clinic in 1978, after starting his career at Rock Hill's Ebenezer Animal Hospital. She said the University of Georgia graduate was a deacon at Fort Lawn Baptist Church and a loving father to his two grown children. She said when their children were school-age, Lazenby would craft his busy schedule to allow time for his family.
"He loved his children," Gweneth Lazenby said. "Wherever they were, he was there."
Lazenby also made time for his community.
Fort Lawn Police Chief Richard Smith said that since he was a teen, he has entrusted Lazenby with the care of his pets.
"This is a big loss for Fort Lawn and Chester County," Smith said, noting that Lazenby was an example of honest public service. "He was always willing to help, willing to listen."
As a former chairman of the Chester County Planning Commission and a leader among volunteer firemen, Lazenby had a say in many important decisions in Chester County, said Eddie Murphy, director of Chester County Emergency Management. Murphy said Lazenby played an important role in caring for animals displaced in the Great Falls mill fire in 2006.
"He was always a great help to me and our community," Murphy said.
At Monday night's Chester County Council meeting, County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey said Lazenby was an original member of the county's planning commission.
"It's a deep loss for all of us," Roddey said during the meeting. "He's worked hard for Chester County for many years."
After the meeting, Roddey said Lazenby was more than a community-minded man -- he was also his friend for some 30 years.
"Good friend," he said.
Funeral arrangements had not been announced Monday.