Ceremony held to honor the longest continuous serving sheriff in the history of Crawford County
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel, family and friends celebrated the life of retired Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Alan Wakefield on Friday.
Wakefield passed away at his home on Tuesday, April 16. He was 68.
Wakefield retired from serving as the Crawford County Sheriff on Dec. 3, 2018 after holding the office for 17 years.
Wakefield served as past president of the Michigan Sheriff Association.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from every corner of Michigan attended the celebration of life ceremony for Wakefield held on Friday, April 26, at the Grayling Free Methodist Church.
Wakefield’s remains and his family were transported from the Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home in a BearCat, an armored tactical vehicle used by the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team. Wakefield was the founder and commander of the group, a SWAT team that responds to emergencies throughout the region.
Wakefield was born on June 5, 1950 to the late Robert and Shirley Wakefield. He was raised in Milford.
Both of his parents were veterans, and he had an uncle, Joseph William Wakefield, who is listed as Missing In Action from his service during the Korean War.
Following his family’s footsteps, Wakefield served with an engineering unit during the Vietnam War.
“He volunteered at a time when a lot of Americans were not volunteering,” said Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs, who was appointed to serve out an unexpired two-year term after Wakefield retired.
Wakefield received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the war.
“For a sergeant, with a rank of E-5, needless to say he had to do something very spectacular in combat,” Kraycs said.
Wakefield was known for making bold statements when it came to changing the laws for the citizens of Crawford County and those who visit and travel through the area.
“Sometimes he questioned his government, but he loved his country with his whole heart,” Kraycs said.
Wakefield loved God, his family, community and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement.
“We have all lost a friend a friend, colleague, leader, husband and dad,” said Chaplain Wade Davis, who leads the Forgotten Man Ministries in the Crawford County Jail. “There is a huge hole in the community that will never be filled.”
During his 17 years as Crawford County’s top cop, Wakefield took being involved in the community very seriously. He led with the motto: “Our Children Are Our Future,” and believed that getting involved with them early on with a positive aspect would reap great benefits in the future. He would read books to the elementary school children every chance he could.
Wakefield was always present at events involving the community’s children. He cooked hot dogs at the Bike Rodeo every spring. He attended DARE and Junior Deputy graduations, shaking all of the graduates’ hands and presenting them with their certificates.
Wakefield also manned the hot dog grill at the Grayling Country Club for the annual DARE golf outing.
“We renamed our annual DARE golf outing the Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield Memorial Golf Outing, and it’s for the children from this day forward,” Kraycs said.
After a proposal under the Mackinac Bridge, Wakefield married Dawn Marie Smith on May 9, 2015 in Goodhart, Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Kirk is survived by his wife Dawn; daughters, Amy Renee and Melanie Sue Wakefield; stepson, Grady Lawrence Smith; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Wakefield received the Grayling Citizen of the Year in March of 2019. He was a Master Mason of the Masonic Lodge of Grayling and Grand Lodge of Michigan and Elf Khurafeh Shriner. He also served on the Crawford County United Way and Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.
On his last day as sheriff, Wakefield placed a plaque on the wall at the sheriff’s office which says: “Live Free. Stay Strong and I Will Always Be With You.”
As the ceremony concluded on Friday, Davis told the hundreds of people in attendance that they will see Wakefield again.
“Let’s not say goodbye,” Davis said. “Let’s say, see you again old friend.”
Hundreds of law enforcement vehicles led a procession to the Elmwood Cemetery in Grayling, where Wakefield was laid to rest by his parents.
Two fire department ladder trucks formed an arch near the intersection of M-72 West and the I-75 Business Loop with an American flag at the top. Citizens lined the roadways to pay their respect.
Pastor Pat Robbins, who married Kirk and Dawn, led the interment ceremony.
Law enforcement officers stood in formation and saluted Wakefield.
A three-round volley was fired by a rifle squad, and a pipes and drum trio played “Amazing Grace.”
Kraycs, Crawford County Undersheriff Randy Herman, and recently retired Capt. Randy Baerlocher presented American flags to Dawn and Wakefield’s daughters.
Family and friends were impressed at the vast outpouring of support for Wakefield.
“As a law enforcement officer Kirk gave his community and family his heart and soul,” said Roger Hayes, a friend of Wakefield’s from Milford. “Even though he rose to the rank of sheriff for 17 years, he remained involved in all aspects of an officer’s role in the community. He was a friend to many and was truly a cop’s cop.”