Community will honor Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield at memorial service
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A celebration of life service will be held for the longest serving sheriff in the history of Crawford County on Friday.
Kirk A. 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 grew up in Milford. He worked at an uncle’s gas station before he was drafted to serve in Vietnam War from 1970 to 1971. Wakefield was a Purple Heart recipient from wounds he sustained in the jungles of Vietnam.
Following his return home, Wakefield worked for General Motors. He studied law enforcement at Lansing Community College, and the Flint Police Academy.
Wakefield started his career in law enforcement in 1978 at the Howell Police Department in Livingston County. He worked there until late 1982, when he was laid off.
After submitting applications all over the place, Wakefield was hired in 1983 as a deputy for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office. He worked his way up through ranks. He then took a leave of absence, and went to work for the Grayling Police Department in 1992, where he was on duty for four years.
Wakefield was hired by Crawford Sheriff David G. Lovely in 1996 to serve as his undersheriff. In February 2002, he was appointed sheriff. Lovely retired in the middle of his term.
Wakefield ran for reelection four times and was unopposed on every ballot.
Wakefield founded and served 20 years as the commander of the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team, a SWAT team that responds to emergencies throughout the region.
Wakefield served as vice chairman of the Crawford County Veterans Service Council.
Wakefield served as past president of the Michigan Sheriff Association.
A group of 20 sheriffs from throughout the state recently held a meeting in Grayling to discuss mutual aid, working together, training, and legislation affecting law enforcement. They prayed and saluted Wakefield outside of Munson Healthcare Graying Hospital, where he was being cared for.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” said Isabella County Sheriff Michael Main. “Sheriff, we will take it from here.”
Deputies and corrections officers placed mourning bands over their badges and the flag in front of the Crawford County Building was lowered to half-staff in honor of Wakefield.
Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs said the mourning bands will be worn through May 15, which is National Peace Officers Memorial Day, out of respect for Wakefield. A ceremony will be held that day outside the entrance of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
“He was a great mentor. A great friend. A great leader,” said Kraycs, who was appointed to serve as sheriff for an unexpired two-year term after Wakefield retired. “He and I shared a lot of stories over the years – war stories or personal stories and he was always teaching something. There was always a teaching point to the conversations you were having with him. Only certain people can do that without it sounding belittling to the person that they’re talking to.”
Wakefield was known for his sense of humbleness and for leaving a lasting impression on those he met.
Lucas Tessner, a corrections officer for the Clare County Sheriff’s Office and husband of Katie Tessner, a corrections officer for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, witnessed those traits at a holiday celebration.
“I met you Wake for the first time that night and was totally taken aback on how you treated me like one of your own. To see how you interacted with your people was a sight to behold,” Tessner said. “To this day, I have yet to see that type of camaraderie in a department. Kirk, you are not only one of the most impressive sheriffs I have ever met, but one of the most impressive men. I am proud to have called you my friend and I will miss you greatly. I pray God realizes the soldier he has gained in you.”
Wakefield was recognized with the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Award on March 1.
Chad Patterson, the recipient of the award in 2018, cherished presenting the award to Wakefield.
“We had worked charity events together and I had gotten to know him a little bit,” Patterson said. “He was always this strong man, everything you’d expect in a sheriff, but he also had a genuine kindness and warmth that made you feel so welcome.”
Visitation for Wakefield will be held at from noon to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, at the Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home in Grayling. A Masonic Memorial Service will be held at 7:30 p.m.
A celebration of Wakefield’s life will take place at noon on Friday, April 26, at Grayling Free Methodist Church with interment to follow at the Elmwood Cemetery.
Gerald Crawford, a lifelong friend of Wakefield’s, has established the Sheriff Kirk Alan Wakefield Memorial Scholarship to provide educational support for Crawford County law enforcement students.
The permanent endowment fund, established through the North Central Michigan Community Foundation (NCMCF), will serve as a legacy and tribute to Sheriff Kirk Alan Wakefield. The fund was established with an initial $5,000 donation from Crawford. He will match an additional $5,000 in donations to the fund, dollar for dollar.
To donate to the fund, make checks payable to NCMCF with Sheriff Wakefield on the memo line. Credit card gifts can also be made online at ncmcf.org. Simply navigate to give, and then search for the fund name.
Donations made at the Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home will be left in the funeral home’s care. Donations made at a later date may be mailed to NCMCF, P.O. Box 495, Alpena, MI 49707.