Friends and colleagues of former Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes were reeling late Wednesday after learning news of her sudden death.
"We're deeply saddened to learn that after such a long service to the residents of Douglas County that her well-earned time with her family was cut short," County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.
Jaimes, 65, died after being taken to University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. Funeral services are pending and will be announced by Warren-McElwain Mortuary.
She served as county clerk for 24 years before retiring following the 2004 elections. Her death was especially stunning to those who worked under her in the clerk's office.
"At this moment our office is in shock," said County Clerk Jamie Shew, who was elected to be her replacement. "Many of us had spoken to her at least during the past month."
Shew said Jaimes had a close relationship with her former staff, many of whom had worked with her many years.
"She'll be very much missed," Assistant County Administrator Pam Madl said. "She was always very friendly, positive - a good person."
County commissioners also were shocked to learn of Jaimes' death.
Commission Chairman Bob Johnson recalled not only working with Jaimes but living next door to her and her family in Lawrence many years ago.
"She was a great neighbor," he said. "Then I had the good fortune of being elected to the County Commission and working with her while she was clerk. She'd only been retired for a short time. That's just devastating."
Commissioner Charles Jones described Jaimes as fierce but compassionate.
"You just had to smile whenever you saw Patty," he said. "You could go in and talk to her and she was always candid. I was very fond of her. She was a very good-hearted person."
Former Sheriff Rex Johnson knew not only Jaimes but also her late husband and family.
"We were good friends," he said. "She was very well liked by everybody and as far as I was concerned, she was very good to work with."
Commissioner Jere McElhaney said he had known Jaimes since he was a child. He recalled when he was elected commissioner that Jaimes pulled him aside and told him that there were very high expectations of him because he was filling the shoes once held by his father, former Commissioner Louie McElhaney.
"She told me, 'I want you to remember that you have many, many, many friends in this courthouse and just don't let it get to you," McElhaney said. "I remember that just like it was yesterday."
Jaimes was sworn in to office in 1981. In an interview with the Journal-World at the time of her retirement, she said she enjoyed the work in the clerk's office "especially during the elections with the adrenaline running."