MIDDLEBURG – The loud beep from the 911 call center emitted from every law enforcement, fire and rescue officer wearing a two-way radio throughout the county, followed by the following …
MIDDLEBURG – The loud beep from the 911 call center emitted from every law enforcement, fire and rescue officer wearing a two-way radio throughout the county, followed by the following instructions:
“Attention all units. Attention all units. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office respectfully requests to serve a moment of radio silence in memory of Sgt. Eric Twisdale, who died brave on Sept. 16, 2020.”
Moments later, another loud beep.
“Sgt. Eric Twisdale, sergeant of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, with pride, loyalty and dedication for 22 years. His hard work, devotion and smiles will always be remembered. His absence will be greatly realized. Thank you Sgt. Eric Twisdale for a job well-done. May God bless you and your family.
“Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Eric Twisdale, will be 741 [Twisdale’s sheriff’s office ID] at 10-7 [out of service], Sept. 24th, at 1:59 [p.m.], office of the sheriff, Clay County, Green Cove Springs, Fla.”
A final beep.
“All units resume normal radio traffic.”
Clay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Eric Twisdale was laid to rest on Sept. 24, but not before leaving an indelible impression on everyone he met. He died in the line of duty of complications created by COVID-19, Sheriff Michelle Cook said.
The 49-year-old sergeant who supervised the led the agency’s crime scene unit, died Sept. 16 after being hospitalized with the deadly virus. He was survived by a former wife, three children, six grandchildren and a sheriff’s office that was devastated by his death.
“[He was] a great deputy and an even better man,” Cook said.
Twisdale’s flag-draped coffin arrived at St. Luke Catholic Church amid sirens from several agencies, as well as a traditional deputy playing the bagpipe. His daughter, Stephanie Twisdale, told more than 200 mourners her father asked for a “big party” after he died.
“I’m sure he’s smiling down at all of us,” she said.
Following the service, his coffin made the nearly 18-mile trip along Blanding Boulevard and Interstate 295 to St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Jacksonville. He was honored with a flyover by two huge P-3 Orion aircraft from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, and a giant flag draped between ladder trucks from Clay County Fire and Rescue and the Orange Park Fire Department at the entrance of the church. Deputies from several agencies attended the service.
Hundreds stood vigil along the busy highway as Twisdale moved closer to his final resting place. Many parked along the roadway, with most holding hands over their hearts or waving U.S. flags.
He received a 21-gun salute from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Color Guard, followed by the playing of “Taps” by a Clay County deputy bugler and “Amazing Grace” by a bagpiper. His folded flag was presented to Cook, who then offered it to his family.
"He said he wanted a big party," she said. "I am sure he is smiling down at all of us.”
Twisdale started his career with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the early 1990s. He joined CCSO in 1998 and was promoted to sergeant in 2010. He received the Sheriff’s Office Lifesaving Award in 2014 after saving someone from drowning, and he was honored as the Deputy of the Year in 2011 after he stopped a two-county high-speed chase of two suspects wanted in a St. Augustine murder.
Twisdale also served as an ambassador to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at nationalmssociety.org/Donate.