By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — After retiring from the Trussville Police Department in 1996, Chief Irving “Goose” Nash didn’t slow down. He continued serving his community and his church for many years before his death on Friday, May 1, 2020. For Nash’s family, the legacy he leaves behind is all about life lessons and experiences they will never forget.
Born in Ragland, Alabama, Nash never forgot where he came from. He was a simple man, with a pure and honest soul, according to those who knew him best. His wife, Beckie, met Nash not long after he became a Trussville Police Officer. Even after being married for 62 years, Beckie still remembers the first time they met. They were at Trussville Cafe, where her mother worked.
“I went in there one day and he was eating,” said Beckie Nash. “He started talking to my mother and wanted to know, ‘Is that your daughter?’ My mother said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, “Well, get me a date with her!”
The couple wed on June 25, 1958. They had three daughters, Kim, Kristie and Kellie. The youngest daughter, Kellie Nash Usry, remembers how her father’s way with the public was very similar to his way with his children.
“He wanted to talk to you if you got in trouble and he wanted to help you do better,” said Usry. “He was always very encouraging to kids who got in trouble and tried to help them out.”
After Nash passed away, Beckie Nash said she got a phone call from one of those young men who Nash talked to about life. When the man was younger, he said Nash caught him and his friends drinking on the bleachers. Nash took the boy home, but not before pouring out all of his beer. The man said Chief Nash never told his father about the incident, but instead, he made an everlasting impression on his life.
“He said, ‘I’ve always loved him,” Beckie Nash explained. “And he cried telling me about it on the phone.”
Nash’s oldest daughter, Kim Burdett, said he was great at talking but most of all, he was a good listener.
“That’s the thing I would like to be most like my daddy about,” Burdett said. “He was slow to speak and quick to listen, as the scripture talked about. He was very quiet and reserved and sometimes you might think he wasn’t listening, but later he would say something and you would know he had been taking in everything that was being said.”
His girls said if he asked a question, they knew to tell the truth because he already knew the answer.
“I could not stand if my daddy was mad at me or upset, and I would physically get sick as soon as he asked me, ‘where have you been and what have you been doing?” Burdett explained.
Burdett remembers a time when she got a bad grade in elementary school. She told her mother about it and said she was scared to tell her dad.
“I heard his truck pull up and I told Momma, ‘You tell him and I’m going to be in the bathroom praying,” Burdett remembered.
Burdett said her dad came into the bathroom and gently spoke to her about her grades.
“He asked me if I had done my best and I told him I didn’t think I had,” Burdett said. “He told me to do better next time.”
Perhaps it was his listening ear or his helpful talks that made all of his girls “daddy’s girls,” but there is no doubt they were.
“I’ve always said as a joke that if we were both laying on the floor, they’d step over me to get to him,” said Beckie Nash. “He even would tell me if something was going on or if I did something he didn’t like he would say, ‘I’m going to call the girls!”
Burdett said even when she was an adult, she had to call her father in the middle of the night after having a nightmare.
“I called him up and told him I just didn’t think I could sleep and he came over and walked through the yard, looked in the basement and everywhere then he stayed that night with me just because I had a nightmare, and I was 25-years-old at the time,” Burdett said.
Beckie Nash said her husband loved his family and his career. His first job in law enforcement was in Trussville, but he also worked in Irondale and in Vestavia Hills, before coming back to Trussville to serve as Chief of Police.
“He loved the men, he loved the people, he liked the job. He did not like the politics,” Beckie Nash remembered. “He was just a simple man. He didn’t want glory, he didn’t want to be noticed, he just wanted to do the best that he could. He loved the people of Trussville.”
Nash’s family said he always made sure he was there for his officers. It didn’t matter if it was day or night or on the weekends, he wanted to make sure his officers were safe.
During his time at the helm of the Trussville Police Department, Chief Nash made an everlasting impression on the city. He put the first police officer inside the school, starting the D.A.R.E. program, he started Neighborhood Watch, introduced the first K9 officer to the force and hired the city’s first bicycle officer.
Current Police Chief Eric Rush said his career started under Chief Nash, and for that, he is grateful.
“Chief Nash hired me in 1996,” said Rush. “He gave me the opportunity to work here and I really don’t know where I’d be right now if that wouldn’t have happened.”
Rush was one of Nash’s last hires. Nash retired a few months later, after 23 years as Chief.
In all, Nash spent 38 years in law enforcement. But his love for law enforcement didn’t end there. Through his grandson, Dustin Spruiell, his life mission to serve and protect continues. Spruiell is now a deputy with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office.
“He always said, ‘If I can be half the man that my Papa is, I will do good,” said Usry, of her son. “Daddy was always very, very proud of him because not only was he his fishing buddy, but he was so proud of him because he never had boys and when Dustin wanted to become an officer, it made Daddy very proud.”
Beckie Nash has been with her husband since she was 18-years-old. If anybody knew who the man behind the badge was, it was her.
“He was so much fun,” Beckie Nash said. “He was a jokester and just carried on all the time. We had so much fun. All of my friends loved him.”
With a nickname like Goose, a man would have to be a bit of a jokester. But many people don’t know how he earned the nickname. Beckie Nash said it all started when he played basketball. He had a hook shot that other players said looked exactly like the famous hook shot by Goose Tatum, who played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Beckie said the nicknamed was the cause for many laughs over the years.
“One time, I worked for the telephone company, and one day a man walked in and said, ‘How’s old duck doing?” Beckie Nash said. “I told him, ‘He’s not a duck, he’s a goose!”
A big part of Nash’s life was his church. He was saved in 1978 and was a member of First Baptist Church Trussville for many years. He faithfully served his church and his community. His family said he even used some vacations for the church’s Men on Mission Ministry.
After retirement, Nash continued to take small jobs and he enjoyed traveling and fishing. In his later years, Nash survived lung cancer, skin cancer, a triple bypass, and he suffered from dementia. His last 17 days were spent in the hospital with pulmonary edema and pneumonia, during the coronavirus pandemic. His family was unable to spend each day with him because of hospital precautions.
“We called around the clock,” said Usry. “We would wake ourselves up at two in the morning to call. We called every four hours, all day, every day to check on him.”
Beckie had a heart attack just this past August. Kim was able to wheel her mother into the room. Just days before he took his last breath, his wife told him she wasn’t feeling well. She asked him to pray for her and he did. He usually prayed in private, so his wife said this sweet, short prayer was special.
Finally, the family was able to go into the room after Nash was put on a ventilator.
“I think all of us thought at that point that was it,” said Burdett. “When he coded and they put him on a ventilator, we thought that it was over. We just prayed and prayed and everybody in the country just about prayed for him and he rallied.”
Days before his death, Nash was able to come off the ventilator. He was awake and was able to communicate. The family still had to make visits few and far between, but they got creative to ensure he knew he was loved. His middle daughter, Kristie Forehand, posted photos on his wall and a message to remind him why they weren’t there.
Nash was with the family for a few more days. In fact, just two days before he passed, his children were able to see him through the window at the hospital.
“We made signs and held them up to the window,” Usry remembered. “Mother was in there and called us on the phone so we could talk to him. He actually waved at us. Mother asked him if he could see and he said, ‘That’s my girls!”
The family credits hospital staff at St. Vincent’s East with allowing them to FaceTime with Nash. They even let Beckie Nash visit with her husband for an hour a day, during the last week of his life.
“Through the tragedy and loss that we’ll never get over, God gave us those last, precious moments,” Usry said.
The night before Chief Nash passed away, his wife and his three daughters were allowed to stay the night with him. They said they prayed, played gospel music and sang songs.
Below are messages from family members to Irving “Goose” Nash.
From Jay Burdette (son-in-law):
“From the first time I met him, he was always “Chief” to me, even long after he retired. He epitomized what strong leaders should be. While he was strong and resolute in what he believed, he was also kind and caring. He was a godly man who showed us all what a “man” should be.
RIP Chief. I’ll miss you always. Thanks for all you did for me and my sweet bride, your firstborn, Kim.”
From Emily Hoffman (granddaughter):
My grandfather was a man of few words, but when he spoke his words were filled with wisdom, grace, and love. As simple as it sounds, one of our favorite responses my grandfather always said was “Oh.” Anytime we would be talking about something, he would ask, “What are y’all talking about?” When we would tell him, his response was always a deep “Oh.” Nothing more. It became a running joke in our family, but as I sit and think about it, that response was special. It was special because it summed up who he was. A man of few words, but a man of grace. To many, it might seem like a short word, but to our family it brings joy, laughter, and a memory that we can hold onto forever. It reminds us of his desire to be involved with our family, even if his only contribution was, “Oh.”