PALATKA, Fla. – A service Monday afternoon celebrated the life of a Putnam County corrections officer who was killed last week in a traffic crash on his way to work.
Family, friends, coworkers, fellow law enforcement officers and U.S. Marines gathered to pay their respects to Capt. Mark Elam.
Rev. Larry Harris officiated the service held at Coventry Oaks Farm in Palatka, according to an obituary published by Johnson-Overturf Funeral Home.
“Mark’s life was a life well lived, although cut way too short. It was lived with purpose, with great care for others, with unfailing love and with a servant’s heart that valued other lives before his own,” said Harris, who is the uncle of Elam’s wife. “Mark lived, he loved and he laughed. His zest for life was a magnet for others who knew him to become better for having known him.”
Elam, 44, who was described as a role model to fellow Putnam County deputies, was taking northbound U.S. 17 to work about 5:30 a.m. April 8 when another vehicle crossed in front of his motorcycle and the two vehicles collided, troopers said.
Elam, who was ejected from his bike, was taken to an area hospital for treatment. He did not survive.
An 18-year Putnam County Sheriff’s Office veteran who also served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Elam was scheduled to be promoted to captain in May. Sheriff “Gator” DeLoach awarded Elam a posthumous promotion to that rank in the wake of his death.
During the funeral, DeLoach told several stories about Elam’s love of doing things for children in his community and his commitment to helping coworkers.
“Mark was a go-to for many deputies at the jail. Whenever someone needed help, Mark was often heard saying, ‘How can I help you in your state of emergency?’” DeLoach said.
The Putnam County Jail is where Elam met his wife of 15 years who also worked there. The couple have two sons and were in the process of adopting five children when Elam died.
The Marine Corps and Sheriff’s Office helped Elam off with military honors. After the Marines folded the flag that draped over his casket, they gave it to DeLoach, who then presented the flag to Elam’s wife. It was during that moment when the sheriff gave Elam’s wife words of encouragement.
“Her family will always be a part of our Sheriff’s Office family, and we’re forever grateful for his service not only to the country but also to the residents of Putnam County,” DeLoach said.
As flags outside the Sheriff’s Office flew at half-staff last Thursday, Elam’s colleagues remembered the kind of man he was.
Maj. Scott Surrency, the jail director, said Elam possesses a larger-than-life influence over corrections deputies.
“The amount of support he had with deputies, he had an ability to reach people,” Surrency said. “He served as an inspector on Florida model jail standards and knew policies and standards with an almost-photographic memory.”
Col. Joseph Wells, the chief deputy, said it was evident that Elam served as a mentor to many of his coworkers at the agency. He described the 44-year-old military and law enforcement veteran as irreplaceable.
“As I’ve spent some time in our facility, throughout the day, one of the most common themes I hear is, well, ‘Mark trained me’ and, you know, ‘Mark taught me this, and I always looked up to him, he was great to go to get advice,’” Col. Wells said.
Elam is survived by his wife and two sons. The couple was in the process of adopting five more children when he passed.
Reporting by Joe McLean contributed to this report.