Murphys, CA — In Friday’s fully sunny sky, amid the fall foliage and colorful eulogies of him, Sheriff Gary Kuntz’s spirit was richly evident.
Among the hundreds of vehicles in procession from downtown San Andreas following a private Mass to a public celebration of his life were dozens of law enforcement, fire and other service units, all flashing their siren lights silently as the caravan wound its way through through Main Street Angels Camp before heading north to Murphys, where a noontime memorial service at Ironstone Vineyards was attended by well over a thousand people.
Everyone who stood to speak about Sheriff Kuntz, who passed suddenly last week of a heart attack at the age of 63, had something colorful to share; many referring to him as “The People’s Sheriff.” County Board of Supervisors Cliff Edson recalled the lively exchanges between “our friend and our Sheriff” and the board during budget discussions, while asserting his department’s needs in order to best protect the public. Among his accomplishments that Edson recalled, “He made sure to have a presence in every community…was able to open up Sheriff’s substations in many of them…and led efforts to form the Friends of the Sheriff.”
Angels Camp Police Chief Todd Fordahl, recalling when he served under Kuntz during Kuntz’s field sergeant days with the county, regaled the audience about Kuntz’s appearance on the scene following the nighttime nabbing of some suspects responsible for a rash of mail thefts. As deputies were recovering a significant amount of mail from a vehicle, Fordahl shared that the Sheriff’s unique “to-the-point with just enough humor” style of communication came through as he addressed the perpetrators, as they sat before him on a curb; finally offering them the sage advice, “if you want to mess with the mail, get a job at the post office.”
Fordahl also remembered the Sheriff as an advocate for inter-agency efforts; working together to improve the level of service to the community by sharing resources.
With great pride his daughter Amy shared details of his past. Among them: his birth in South Dakota to German immigrant parents who moved out west to live the American Dream; moving to Jenny Lind and attending Calaveras High as a senior (and later, showing tremendous pride in having his children and grandchildren graduate from there); transitioning from an early career as a stone mason to law enforcement; and the “grass roots” family campaign they all ran that won him the Sheriff’s office in 2010.
For some video details from the service, including the eulogy given by Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jim Macedo, click here.