LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — If you ask Sheriff Kathy Witt what she’ll most remember about Anita Franklin, you will not get a straight answer.
“I’ll miss everything about Anita,” Witt said while discussing Franklin’s death on Tuesday.
Franklin died suddenly on Monday morning. Civic leaders from all over Lexington were still in shock more than 24 hours later. Witt hired Franklin a few years after Anita’s son, Antonio, was shot and killed in Lexington’s Duncan Park. He was cutting through the park, using it as a short cut. Soon after, Franklin chose to turn the tragedy into something positive, becoming one of the city’s leading advocates against gun violence while working tirelessly to assist families who dealt with similar tragedies. It was a choice Franklin made that, to this day, still has Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton wondering how she did it.
“I think a lot of people would’ve reacted very differently,” Gorton said. “They would’ve been angry, crawled into a cocoon and never come back out. There’s all kinds of responses and she didn’t do that. She used this for the greater good. That’s just an awesome statement about her and how strong she was,” Gorton continued.
Witt saw that strength from the very first time she met Franklin, which was at Duncan Park during a memorial service to honor Antonio, and years before she’d hire her in the Sheriff’s office.
“Before I leaned in (to give her a hug), she leaned in to hug me and embrace me even in her time of grief,” Witt said.
Franklin organized peace marches around Lexington to help spread the message about gun violence and recently spoke in Frankfort at the Moms’ Demand Action rally. She was also a member of the Survivor’s Council, which was part of Andy Beshear’s office when he served Attorney General. Stan “J.R.” Zerkowski from St. Paul Church in Lexington worked very closely with Franklin over the years on various projects.
“When I was tired, she’d prop me back up and say, ‘JR we’ve got to fight, got to go forward. We’ve got to love them,’” Zerkowski said.
Zerkowski said others will have to pick up the slack for Franklin because it’s her time now to rest, and to be reunited with her son.
“She received the reward of her faith,” Zerkowski said. “Being one with her God, and her son.”
It doesn’t feel like much of a reward, however, for those she left behind.
“Very tragic for (everyone). Her voice resonated across the Commonwealth,” Witt said.