Sheriff dies of COVID complications
Marion County sheriff Rob Craft, 64, died at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka, where he had been airlifted Monday with complications from COVID-19.
The U.S. flag on the sheriff's office and jail in Marion was lowered to half-staff in his memory.
Craft's body was escorted back to the county by members of the Kansas Highway Patrol, where he had served before becoming sheriff in 2009. A former Marine, he began his law enforcement career in 1981 as a state trooper stationed in Marion.
"110 is back in the county," undersheriff Larry Starkey announced over police radio as the convoy entered the county. Craft's call sign was 110.
In a posting on social media, a member of the sheriff's office staff wrote: "Our hearts are breaking. But we will hold strong for you. Rest easy, sir, we have the watch from here."
A procession of 28 state, county, and local law enforcement vehicles escorted the sheriff's remains from the US-56/77/K-150 roundabout to Yazel-Megli Funeral Home in Marion shortly before midnight.
Their red and blue emergency lights flashing, another two dozen fire and emergency medical vehicles from throughout the county lined E. Main St. from Thorp St. to Elm St. for the procession.
Even as bitterly cold winds and sleet began to fall, dozens of law enforcement officers gathered outside the funeral home to pay their respects.
Craft had been in intensive care on a ventilator at Newton Medical Center before being transferred to Topeka to receive dialysis treatment for kidney failure.
Services are planned for 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26 at Marion Sports and Aquatic Center.
By state law, Starkey will serve as sheriff until a successor, nominated by Republican precinct committeemen and committeewomen, is named by the governor. Starkey has confirmed he will be a candidate when the precinct committeemen and committeewomen meet at 5 p.m. March 5 at Marion County Lake hall. Applications will be available at the county clerk's office. An election in November will fill the last two years of Craft's unexpired term.
Craft's daughter-in-law, Jenny Craft, and her father, pastor Jeff Lee of Aulne Church, both died of COVID in October.