MIDDLEBURG, Fla – At a funeral service Thursday to remember and honor a Clay County deputy who died last week of complications of COVID-19, the public learned something he had not widely shared that made his life of courage and service even more remarkable: Sgt. Eric Twisdale suffered from multiple sclerosis.
“Eric was such a fighter and he fought for so many years with multiple sclerosis and he seemed to always just stay ahead of it,” longtime partner Sgt. Kenny West told hundreds attending the Mass mass. “Then, for something like this to be the cause of his death -- the virus -- it’s mindboggling.”
West, Twisdale’s partner for decades both in Clay County and when they both worked for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, delivered the eulogy.
“We had been texting him while he was in the hospital,” West told News4Jax. “You can’t really talk to him -- been texting back and forth -- so one night we would actually go over and turn the blue lights on my car and find out what window he was in and we would wave through our cell phones. So we would try to keep his spirits up.”
Twisdale leaves behind a family in both life and law enforcement. The 49-year-old had a large family, including two daughters and grandchildren.
Hundreds lined Blanding Boulevard from I-295 to Old Jennings Road as a procession brought Twisdale to the funeral. Hundreds more filled St. Luke Catholic Church, with about half of them in uniform.
“(The) invisible enemy of COVID-19 struck him unexpectedly sometime, a few weeks ago. The virus took ever and Eric passed away a few days later surrounded by family,” Rev. Andy Blaszkowski told the gathering.
The Sheriff’s Office said Twisdale acquired the virus on the job.
“It was an honor -- an honor to be part and honor him and have a little humor with him,” West said. “Anytime you have a line-of-duty death, it’s tough.”
A Navy flyover as the service ended showed how much support the Twisdale family and the Sheriff’s Office have from the community.