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LAKE BUTLER, Fla. --The close knit community of Union County is grieving once again.

Wednesday evening, a viewing was held for Sheriff Jerry Whitehead. The sheriff died suddenly Wednesday afternoon after a brief illness.

"I think everybody is numb right now, they can't believe it," said Belle Esford. She's lived in Union County for 40 years, and knew the sheriff very well.

"He was like a son to me," she said.

Whitehead's death is another part of what residents call a tragic year for Union County. In August, the person many called the matriarch of the county, Sheriff Whitehead's mother, passed away. Weeks later, another pillar in the community, Marvin Pritchett, and several others were shot and killed. Religious leaders in Union County say many in the close community rely on each other, and faith to help them cope.

"People depend on their faith, they draw on their faith, and it's for times such as this that our faith is especially important," said Brother Art Peterson. He's been the pastor of the First Christian Church of Lake Butler for almost 30 years.

Others agree with Peterson.

"Faith plays a huge part in trying to help each other with hope as we press on in times like these," said Stephen Wells, Worship & Family Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lake Butler.

Sheriff Whitehead's funeral is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. He'll be buried at Whitehead Cemetery.

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