By Bobbie Poynter
Kentucky law enforcement just lost one of its best. Friends and family, as well as law enforcement officers across Kentucky mourn the loss of long- time sheriff’s deputy Shirley (Shirl) Elliott, who passed away May 6.
Shirl Elliott married Edna Disney in 1959 and the two were blessed with three children, the late Eddie Elliot, Janie Swords and John Elliott.
“Dad was a prankster,” said his daughter Janie. “He liked to pay practical jokes on you. He loved to tell stories about everybody in the county. He’d tell about how it was in the old days. I knew every one of his stories by heart as I had heard them over and over again. But each time I heard a story, it was as if I were hearing it for the first time.
He really liked to laugh, and every kid in this county called him Pappaw Shirl. That’s just the way he was. He loved people.”
Shirl married Nikki Sowders in 2001, and the two were together up until his passing on May 6. With Shirl’s marriage to Nikki, two more adult children were added to the family, Brent Sowders and Melissa Sowders Shepherd.
“Shirl was such a loving person, and treated everybody with respect,” said his wife Nikki. “He wanted everybody to have a good life, and we did. We enjoyed each other.”
Elliott grew up in Artemus and attended school at Artemus Elementary before joining his dad, Bob Elliott, in the coalmines.
“When I was a boy, Shirl would always acknowledge me just as he would any adult,” said Elliott’s long-time friend, attorney Sam Castle.
“When I grew up and started practicing law, as a young insecure attorney, Shirl said to me, ‘You need anything, you let me know. I will take care of you. Don’t be nervous about nothing.’
“He couldn’t give me any legal advice,” Castle added, “but he could always give me practical advice. It was always great having a friendly face in the courtroom. He would put me at ease. That meant a lot to me.”
Sometime in the early 70s, Elliott signed up with the Barbourville Police Force and finally joined the Knox County’s Sheriff’s Department, where he remained a deputy with the department until he retired in 2008.
“Shirl was one of the best police officers I’ve ever known,” said Castle. “Most people are afraid of police officers, but even the defendants respected him. Shirl had a gentle way about him. He could just talk to them and call them down without mistreating them. He just had that way about him. He’s the type new officers would want to pattern their careers after.”
Elliott was laid to rest Sunday at the Burch-Alford Cemetery in Artemus.