Employees of the Erath County Sheriff’s Office - along with an entire community - are mourning the loss of its chief deputy.

Cody Keith passed away Thursday night after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 37. 

“We want to thank the community and the sheriff’s office for all the support they have given our family during the last few years,” said Tommy Keith, Cody Keith’s father.

Keith will be laid to rest on Monday. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Backpack Buddies of Erath County.

“That was Cody’s true love,” Tommy Keith said. “It was all about the kids.”  

Keith was originally from Hico and graduated from Hico High School in 2001.

He was nominated and selected as an honoree in this year’s 40 under 40 magazine produced by the Empire-Tribune.

At the time, he told the E-T that it was his grandfather - the first elected constable of Erath County - who inspired him to enter law enforcement.

“I’ve always loved helping people,” he said. “I’ve never been a ticket writer. I never got dressed and thought, ‘How many people am I going to throw in jail?’ I get more pleasure of helping an elderly community member. You know, when they say ‘thank you’ for five minutes of your time, it makes my day. That inspires me.”

In 2016, Keith was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a rare form of head and neck cancer. 

The diagnosis was followed by extensive treatments and incredible community support. 

Fundraisers were held to help Keith and his young family - wife Belinda and two young children - cope with medical bills and living expenses.

“I will tell you I never thought I would go through this. I’ve been fighting every day since. When I was a kid, my father was the president of the Chamber of Commerce [and] I took part in the first Relay For Life, so I never thought I would need something like that,” Keith told the E-T. “This community has stood beside me and behind me from day one. This community has stayed true. We’re big but we’re still a small-town atmosphere. This community truly cares about each other and I’m proud to serve it.” 

During his treatments, Keith continued working as a deputy with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office until he was promoted to chief deputy in 2018.

On Friday, Sheriff Matt Coates issued a statement about his friend and chief deputy.

“We are all better off having known Cody; Erath County is a much better place because of his service,” Coates said. “His shoes can never be filled, but he did teach us all enough about work ethic, how to love and treat one another, and how to be a fierce fighter so we could continue to move forward.  

“We love and will miss Chief Deputy Cody, the world is a lesser place without him.”