Two men who spent several years as civil servants passed away last week.
Former LaRue County Sheriff John A. Smith Sr., 81, of Magnolia died May 11 at Logan Memorial Hospital in Russellville.
Former Hodgenville mayor R.K. Keith, 84, died May 16 at Sunrise Manor Nursing Home – the facility he served as a volunteer for many years.
Smith served as deputy 1970-78 and as sheriff 1978-82. He was an unopposed Democratic candidate for sheriff elected in November 1977.
LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner said Smith’s family has a strong history in law enforcement with son Jerry retiring from Kentucky State Police, his daughter Janalyn serving as an office deputy sheriff for a number of years and his grandson Jonathan Vaughn now a Kentucky State Trooper.
John’s wife Eva Judelle, who preceded him in death, served as a deputy sheriff.
Smith was a member of South Fork Baptist Church, a Kentucky Colonel and an Army Veteran of the Korean War.
He is survived by a daughter, Jayne Perkins of Magnolia; a son, Jerry Smith of Russellville; two sisters; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
The funeral was May 14 at Dixon-Rogers Funeral Home.
Keith was a three-term mayor (1981-93), two-term Kentucky state representative (1968-1972), a member of Buffalo Baptist Church, was co-owner of Hawkins & Keith Insurance Agency, treasurer for the LaRue County Fair Board, past member of the Buffalo Lions Club and Buffalo Masonic Lodge, former LaRue County School Board member and past director of the Hodgenville Housing Authority.
He was honored with the “Jean Bocko Humana Volunteer of Kentucky Award” in 1996.
Keith clocked about 7,000 volunteer hours at Sunrise, said activity director Kathy Cooper.
“He just loved going around visiting with the residents,” Cooper said. “He was always jolly. He never met a stranger. He always had a hug for you – or a piece of candy.”
Keith’s visits became less frequent when he began having health problems – but he still found ways to contribute. Whenever the nursing home staff held fundraisers and bake sales for a family in need, Keith was quick to pull out his wallet.
“I don’t know how many cakes he bought,” Cooper said. “But he gave them all away.”
Keith could not eat the pastries due to his health concerns, but found families in the community who would appreciate them, she said.
Current mayor Terry Cruse said Keith “did a lot of good for this community.”
“He had the best interest of the community when he was in office,” said Cruse. “He was a good fellow.”
Turner recalled Keith’s accomplishments in office – infrastructure improvements including water and sewer systems.
“He had a tremendous legacy,” he said. “The sewer plant reconstruction and line extensions were vital to enable the Industrial Park to be built and ensure that the city maintained EPA compliance. It was a massive undertaking … at the time it was done, no other project in Kentucky had coordinated this large a number of grant agencies. It was tough, but R.K. stuck with it to make the project happen.”
The city lowered the flag in Keith’s honor Monday and closed city hall Tuesday afternoon for the funeral.
Keith is survived by his wife, of 57 years, Norma Moore Keith, two sons, Dale Keith and Craig Keith, both of Hodgenville; and two granddaughters.
The funeral was held at Bennett-Bertram Funeral Home.