A Merced County sheriff’s deputy died this week, following a two-month battle with cancer.
Deputy Lucas Hukill, 39, died Tuesday night at a hospital in Palo Alto, Sheriff Vern Warnke confirmed.
“It’s just a shame that a man in the absolute prime of life was stricken down by such a horrible disease. We’re going to miss him and miss him sadly,” Warnke said Wednesday. “It’s going to leave a hole in our hearts. It’s all I can do not to burst into tears.”
He is survived by his wife, Jeanette, and their three young girls, Kayleen, 9, Karissa, 8, and Kinsley, 2.
Hukill joined the Merced County Sheriff’s Department in 2008 after serving several years as a deputy in Mariposa County. He was perhaps best known in the community for his work on the county’s Inter-agency Narcotics Task Force, where he worked for more than five years, deputies said.
Hukill was the lead investigator in 2013 during one of the largest drug cases in the county’s history. More than 400 pounds of crystal methamphetamine was taken off Merced County’s streets during that case, Sgt. Rich Howard said.
“He had a knack for taking on the younger guys and instilling those values,” Howard said. “He was known amongst his peers to be very detail-oriented and very dedicated to his family.”
Hukill’s aunt, Lois Palmer, said the loss has left his family devastated. “He was an awesome dad,” Palmer said. “Those girls just worship their dad, so they’re going to be totally lost.”
Palmer said Hukill never lost his faith and continued to pray for others around him in the hospital right up until his final hours of consciousness.
Hukill was diagnosed in late December with a rare form of cancer. Howard described his friend as part of a tight-knit brotherhood of narcotics agents and deputies.
Sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday journeyed to Palo Alto and brought Hukill home under the supervision of the department’s Honor Guard. About 50 people, including relatives and deputies, were on hand at the Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home when deputies brought Hukill back to Merced.
Deputies are concerned for his family and have been working to raise funds to help them through this tragedy. “We made that commitment to his family and to him, and we’re going to fulfill that,” Howard said.
Standing outside the funeral home Wednesday, an emotional sheriff recalled his final conversation with Hukill. “We sat in my office two weeks ago, and we talked, we cried, and we prayed,” Warnke said. “His biggest fear was what would happen to his family.”
Warnke said he was proud to know so many in the department and in the community would continue to reach out and help a family in need.
Sun-Star staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help the Hukill family
Friends and family have established a GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/hukillstrong. They are asking for donations in lieu of flowers.
Funeral services are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the Christian Life Center, 650 East Olive Ave. Deputy Hukill will be laid to rest at the cemetery in Winton.