Mourners Say Last Goodbyes To Sheriff Jim Karnes

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Hundreds gathered at Vets’ Memorial on West Broad Street this morning to say their last goodbyes to Franklin County Sheriff Jim Karnes.

Many of the people who gathered in the auditorium of Vets’ Memorial were members of the sheriff’s department, their badges covered with black bands.

Karnes died last week just a month after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old.

Karnes was known for his large stature and often called “Big Jim.” Reverend Jesse Blevins remembered the sheriff.

“When he walked in the room you could sense his presence when he came in. But on the inside he had a big heart,” Blevins said.

Mourners recalled Karnes’ nearly five decades of public service as well as his other community activities — such as a drug prevention program for children. Father Leo Connolly said Karnes ran a tight ship at the sheriff’s department.

“And so I have this picture first of the angels all lining up in attention. And Jim saying to them there are three things that you need to do: show up on time, don’t lie and do your job,” Connolly said.

Perhaps the most touching memories came from Karnes’ three daughters. Brooke Carnevale spoke for the sisters.

“Most of you here knew him as sheriff, ‘Big Jim,’ James Allen, Jimmy, Uncle Jim, only the three of us had the privilege to call him dad,” Carnevale noted. Carnevale told of her father’s love for boxing, baseball and his garden. She shared childhood memories and recalled her father’s frugalness.

“The tears we shed are because we will miss him so much. He was the true rock of our family,” she said.

Former Marion County Sheriff John Butterworth came down for the service. He said Karnes remained grounded despite his significant job.

“You would never know the amount of responsibility he had because he thought everyone was important,” Butterworth said.

Karnes was elected Sheriff in 1992. He joined the department as a deputy in 1963. Karnes and his wife, Sandra, were married 47 years.