It was an emotional afternoon for many of the men and women who work to keep the residents of Hennepin County safe as deputies came together on Sunday to help one of their own battle an incurable disease.
Deputy Jeff Bunton was unable to attend the benefit his colleagues planned because he wasn't feeling well, but his wife and children went in his stead, taking pictures and videos to so that he could see how much he was missed.
"I couldn't imagine going through what he's going through," Matthew Rucker admitted.
Those who know Bunton say when looking at life in years, 41 is too soon to go -- but when it comes to the life lived in the years you have, Bunton's have certainly been full.
"There are tons of people here," Rucker said. "This is a great tribute to him and his family."
The Cottage Grove native served six years in the Navy before he realized his dream of becoming a sheriff's deputy.
"It's what he wanted to do, and he had a blast at it," Rick Bunton told Fox 9 News. "He has an awesome bunch of friends up here that are deputies."
Bunton was assigned to the mental health transport unit, and loved ones say he was well-suited for dealing with psychiatric patients on their worst days.
"He had patience with every person that he came in contact with," Kris Bunton reflected. "I think that really made him good at his job."
Yet, while working in law enforcement comes with its own occupational hazards, Kris Bunton admitted the pancreatic cancer diagnosis came as a complete shock two months ago.
"I'm just so overwhelmed and grateful for their support during this time," she said.
Hundreds pulled together to raise money to help the family cope with the terminal prognosis, even presenting his son with a hand-made turkey call engraved with his father's badge number.
"Jeff is an avid hunter," Kris Bunton explained. "Tyler was starting that and they were going to get into turkey hunting, so it's fitting that now he has that."
Jeff Bunton is such a hunting and fishing enthusiast, he was diagnosed after he had to be rushed to a local hospital from a vacation in Ely. Since then, his friends and family say he's accepted the diagnosis and is grateful for the support he has seen.
"Overall, I think he's at peace with it and he is happy to know his family is being taken care of," Tim Engh said.
Jeff Bunton has been with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office for the past 14 years.
Donations to help his family can be made to:
The Jeff Bunton Benefit Fund
City & County Credit Union
144 11th Street E.
St. Paul, MN 55101
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