Retired Sheriff Timothy Swanson confirmed Friday that Chief Deputy Michael A. McDonald, whom voters elected sheriff in November, died Friday evening. No further details were available.
Michael A. McDonald, the man Stark County voters elected their sheriff just three months ago, has died.
Retired Sheriff Timothy Swanson, who was McDonald’s former boss and longtime friend, said he learned of McDonald’s death shortly after 7 p.m. Friday. He said he didn’t know any further details.
At about the same time, friends and co-workers began to post messages of condolence, remembrance and prayer on McDonald’s personal Facebook page.
“Heaven will now be safer, we love you Mike,” wrote one friend.
McDonald, 54, spent his career protecting Stark County residents. A 1976 graduate of Louisville High School, McDonald began volunteering at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office as an explorer deputy in 1977. He was hired full-time in 1981 and rose through the ranks up to chief deputy, where he oversaw the county’s 501-bed jail.
McDonald had announced publicly in November 2011, a year before he was on the ballot as sheriff, that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which his doctors believed was caused by acid reflux. McDonald said at the time that he was “very strong and very strong-willed” and wasn’t going to drop his bid for sheriff.
By September 2012, two months before the election, McDonald, who had lost a great deal of weight and his hair from the cancer treatments, believed that his cancer was gone.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt,” McDonald had declared triumphantly to a reporter.
McDonald easily won the November election over his Republican challenger in what many initially had expected to be a close contest. He spent the next several weeks getting ready for his new job and attended the training courses for new sheriffs as required by the state. He was to take office Jan. 7.
But in December, friends said doctors had discovered cancer cells in other parts of McDonald’s body. Four days before McDonald was to take the oath as Stark County’s 47th sheriff, he signed his initials to a typed letter that said he was unable to assume the job that he had been his life’s goal.
“It’s just devastating,” said Swanson on Friday. “It takes all the wind out of your sails.”
Earlier this week, law enforcement officers from around Stark County recognized McDonald as the Stark County Deputy of the Year, honoring his more than 30-year devotion to Stark County residents.
McDonald is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a daughter, Kelly; and son, Bradley. Swanson said funeral arrangements are pending.