Black bows decorate the outside of Wakulla County's property appraiser's office. Inside tears flow every second. Whether it's flipping through photographs or comforting family members, the news of Ronald Kilgore's death weighs heavy on the mind.
Co-worker Jim Diephuis says, "I couldn't believe it after saying goodbye Friday and ‘we'll see ya Monday.’ "
But Monday never came for the county property appraiser. Co-workers say Kilgore was coughing up blood Sunday night and passed away in his wife's arms. The 53-year-old who spent more than two decades in office had suddenly died, leaving folks shocked and confused.
Jim Diephuis adds, "He knew every blade of grass in the county. It's a tragic loss for the family, county, and everybody really."
For many Wakulla residents, Kilgore was the only property appraiser they knew. He had deep ties to the community. Even county officials are unsure where to go from here.
Parrish Barwick, Wakulla County administrator, says, "We're on eggshells because we haven't had this happen. We're unsure what will happen."
It turns out the governor's office will have to appoint Kilgore's replacement. A likely scenario is that person serves until 2006 when a special election will be held. Until this happens, Kilgore's staff will have to hold up the fort in memory of their beloved boss.
Preliminary reports show Ronald Kilgore suffered from a ruptured tumor in the lung. Funeral arrangements are underway.