When staff members at the Barren County Sheriff’s Office and others who knew Ernest T. Franklin remember him, one thing stands out the most – the smile he almost always wore.
“Seeing Ernest come through the front door with a big smile on his face would make your problems seem little to none,” said Trevor Phillips, an office deputy at BCSO. “He will truly be missed.”
Franklin, 58, was a process server for the sheriff’s office since Nov. 27, 2006. He was on duty Wednesday when the Ford Escape he was driving veered off Ky. 90 west of Glasgow and followed an erratic path before finally stopping on an embankment with the front end in a pond. He was transported by ambulance to T.J. Samson Community Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
A witness said it appeared Franklin was slumped over after he left the roadway, and a preliminary autopsy report lists hypertensive heart disease as the suspected cause of death, Barren County Coroner Mike Swift said Thursday.
Franklin’s colleagues described him in many ways: a great asset to the sheriff’s office, a good friend, hard working, the “true definition of a public servant” and a Christian.
“He just always had a kind word to say,” Deputy Ken Thomas said.
People always knew what to expect from him, because he was “always Ernest” and “earnest,” too, he said.
“Ernest seemed like the type of guy who never had a bad day, and he made everybody’s day better by being that way,” said Shannon White, hazardous materials coordinator.
Franklin liked to start his work day with “our usual back-and-forth banter that made everybody smile,” White said.
One of Phillips’ duties was to sort papers sent from the courthouse and county attorney’s office that needed to be served, then he distributed them to Franklin and the other process server, Joe Jackman.
“While doing that, we’d have our morning talks about family, friends, work, weather, politics,” Phillips said. He recalled a recent conversation in which Franklin said he enjoyed a weekend visit with his daughter Whitney – his only child – in Louisville.
Jackman, a process server at BCSO since 1995, said if he and Franklin anticipated a problem with any of the people they would contact on a given day, they would go there together. Franklin told him just last week, “We can look at one another and know what the other was thinking,” he said.
“We were just good for one another,” Jackman said.
Jackman, whose wife of 22 years died March 24, said now he’s also lost his “working buddy.”
“He was there for me when my wife passed,” Jackman said. “He was right there. He was a friend with me. He told me, ‘You’re like a brother to me.’”
Franklin assured him he could handle everything at work while Jackman took some time off to mourn his wife.
“I just can’t say enough good about him,” Jackman said. “He was proud of his job. He was there to help.”
Deputy Mike Houchens, BCSO’s public information officer, said Franklin went above and beyond to ensure he helped the community.
“I’ve observed him numerous times helping citizens in everyday ways, pointing them in the right direction, giving them a helping hand and encouraging words. Ernest had a way with words. He could put just about any situation in the best possible perspective and see the good, even in not-so-positive situations,” Houchens said.
He and Franklin frequently talked sports – especially University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball.
“It was always an exciting time leading up to a game and always a couple of days after a game,” Houchens said. “There won’t be another year that goes by or a meeting between the two teams that I won’t think of Ernest.”
Jackman said as far as he knew, Franklin was the only Louisville fan in the office.
“We really teased him about that last game,” he said, referring to the UK-UofL matchup on March 28 in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest region semifinal, which UK won after UofL led for most of the game. “He took it good.”
Jackman said he knew Franklin was a Christian man, not just by Franklin’s church attendance, but through his actions. Franklin was a member of Hopewell Baptist Church, where visitation will be held Monday evening and the funeral Tuesday.
The Rev. Emmanuel Reid, the church’s pastor for about two years, said when he came to the church and was implementing changes, Franklin “stepped up and took leadership” administratively and helped keep things moving.
Reid said Franklin’s faithfulness and willingness to help were among the first things he noticed. Franklin volunteered with the youth Bible study and was an usher, he said.
“Even when he wasn’t comfortable doing something, he would give it a shot,” Reid said.
The Rev. Timothy Glover, associate minister and former pastor at Hopewell and an extended family member of Franklin’s through marriage, said Franklin was one of the church’s youth leaders for many years and drove the van to pick them up for Wednesday night Bible classes.
“A lot of our kids were kind of shocked when they heard about him,” Glover said, “because they had all grown to love him.”
Franklin always had something kind or uplifting to say, and he was a giving person, he said.
“One of the biggest things that he always looked forward to doing every year was the Thanksgiving dinner (for the less fortunate, at the Liberty District Ralph Bunche Community Center),” Glover said. “He was the one that spearheaded up the whole thing.”
Franklin, who had been a manager at the Shoney’s restaurant in Glasgow for a long time, also helped with the center’s soup kitchen.
He had a passion for cooking and was an excellent chef, Glover said, and he loved to see the expression on people’s faces as they ate his food.
“He’s already missed, and will continue to be missed for a long time,” Glover said, “but he was prepared. He was prepared to meet his maker, and that makes things easier.”
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