CIRCLEVILLE — Retired Sheriff Dwight Radcliff was laid to rest Wednesday afternoon in Forest Cemetery surrounded by friends and family following a public viewing Tuesday afternoon and a private service for family on Wednesday.
Radcliff, 87, died on Wednesday, May 6. At the time of his retirement at the end of his 12th term in 2013, he was the longest running sheriff in the United States.
Hundreds of people visited the viewing and paid their respects to Radcliff on Tuesday held at Ohio Christian University, and maintained the six feet of recommended distance by following markers on the floor of the Maxwell Center. Deputies occupied the four corners of the gym and stood next to the casket while mourners who donned face coverings paid their final respects.
Wednesday morning a funeral procession drove through Circleville. In that procession were law enforcement personnel from each Pickaway County Department. They drove down Lancaster Pike where they passed deputies and officers that gathered in the Big Lots parking lot from all over the state before heading on to Franklin Street and stopping for a moment in front of the old Sheriff’s residence and jail, that’s now used as the Pickaway County Engineer’s Office.
Radcliff’s son and current Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff said his father lived the sheriff’s life and always kept that responsibility.
“My mom would talk that he would go to work in the morning and when he’d come home his blouse would be soaking with sweat, they were so warm back then,” Robert commented. “He’d hang it over a chair and when he’d go to put it on the next morning it would still be wet. He loved the office and he loved serving people. They always said he’d have to be carried out but I think he realized his time had come but he could never really not be sheriff.”
Robert reminisced about his father and shared what it was like growing up with the legend that was Dwight Radcliff.
“There are all the stories that he told but I lived with him and lived them,” Robert noted. “I can talk about living those stories.”
Robert recalled one such story that happened many times in Dwight’s career; in those days there was a series of robberies at C&I Supply on state Route 22 near Williamsport. Robert noted that in those days it wasn’t uncommon for off-duty deputies to be called in to assist those on duty patrolling and his father was no different than anyone else.
“I was still living at home at the Sheriff’s residence then and I remember him yelling at me that they had a robbery,” he added. “I couldn’t get my clothes on fast enough. Before I even had my shoes on my dad was up and out the door and gone. He’d run out there with his shoes untied and his pants half on but by God he was going to be the first one there, and he often was. I’ll always remember that.”
Another such story that sticks out in Robert’s mind is when three teenagers attacked a deputy at the jail when it was still on Franklin Street and Dwight opened a locked bar door that connected the residents to the third floor of the jail to help.
“We all knew where the keys were in the house but we never used them,” Robert stated. “My dad grabbed that key and opened that door up because he had to help that deputy quickly that been hit by those juveniles.”
Radcliff shared the origin of when people started calling Dwight, Sheriff D.
“I called him Sheriff every day that I worked for him, not dad, he was my boss,” he continued. “When I was elected and he retired several employees asked what should we call him. I told them he earned the title of Sheriff and out of respect for the position and because he’s Sheriff Radcliff and I’m Sherriff Radcliff I told them to call him Sheriff D and me Sheriff R. People did it to honor him after he retired and to not confuse us.”
Radcliff said he could go on and on but the one thing that stands out to him is how Dwight would ask questions just to see what people would know.
“He’d ask you questions until you couldn’t answer one and keep asking in any situation you were in,” he remarked. “He knew all the answers; he just wanted to see how far he could get you before you didn’t know.”
After Robert took over he wanted people to know that he was in charge, and not his father so he didn’t use him as a resource as much since he was his son.
“I think people would have thought he was still in office,” Robert explained. “When I worked for him he was the boss, I respected him. When I became sheriff I always respected him and I’d tell him when we had a big achievement, like when we cleaned up homicide cases, he’d be the first person I’d call. I wanted him to know that we’re carrying on the achievements and goals he set for us and that we wouldn’t stop until we made the arrest and put the people responsible in jail.”
A final public celebration of life will take place sometime later this year, after the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted and it’s safe to do so, Robert said. A date has not yet been announced.
“We’ll do things we would have done in a normal service without restrictions,” he said. “People will be able to come together and talk about how he changed their lives and impacted both them and law enforcement through his service.”