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Community mourns beloved Union County sheriff

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Updated: 12/20/2013 11:45 pm

LAKE BUTLER, Fla. -- Hundreds turned out Friday to pay their respects to Union County Sheriff Jerry Whitehead.

Deputies, officers, state troopers, corrections officers, and sitting and retired sheriffs from all over Northeast Florida gathered at Whitehead's viewing at First Christian Church. Hundreds more civilians also lined up at the church Friday.

Messages of support for the Whitehead family can be seen on the marquees of local businesses all over Union County. At the sheriff's office, sympathy flowers from as far away as Sarasota adorn the lobby.

According to Acting Sheriff Garry Seay, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

"It's a very sad day, it's been a sad week," said Seay.

For 28 years, Whitehead served as Union County's sheriff, following in the steps of his father. But at just 60 years old, he passed away from cardiac failure, leaving everyone in shock.

For Union County resident Jana Redding, he was a man who cared deeply about his hometown and whose door was always open.

"I had his cellphone number. If you needed him, he was right there; all you had to do was call," said Redding. "Our little world has changed."

Seay said Sheriff Whitehead leaves a huge void.

"His legacy is helping people. He always tried to help the other person, the person in need to the person in trouble," said Seay.

As the community comes together to mourn his loss, his memory will live on.

"Jerry Whitehead meant so much to this community. I don't even know how to express the loss that we've experienced," said Redding.

Whitehead's funeral will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at First Christian Church. According to the Union County Sheriff's Office, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to attend.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranches Inc. at P.O. Box 2000, Boys Ranch, FL 32064.

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