By Kim Barto Meeks
Countless mourners filled the Galilean House of Worship on Tuesday morning to remember a real-life Superman — a policeman who could outrun any criminal; a devoted husband, father, and friend; and an upstanding man of God.
The community’s response to Seth Kanode’s sudden loss at age 56 is a testament to how many lives he touched, his friends and colleagues said.
An outpouring of support for the family of the fallen police officer raised more than $30,000 in a matter of days.
Kanode died unexpectedly of an acute brain hemorrhage on Thursday, Sept. 19. He was an avid outdoorsman and a “health nut” who everyone “thought was going to live to be 100,” said friend and former Martinsville police colleague Mark Gilbert. “That’s what is so shocking about all this.”
Gilbert organized a Facebook fundraiser for Kanode’s widow, Cindy, that as of Tuesday night had received donations from more than 500 people. The problem, he said, is that Kanode was “severely underinsured” in terms of life insurance. His family received maybe enough to bury him, Gilbert said, and “with Seth being the predominant breadwinner, his loss will have a lasting effect on Cindy.”
Donations for the family’s expenses are still being accepted on Facebook by searching “Superman is gone! His family needs some help!” However, Gilbert warned that online scammers have targeted some donors, using his name to send messages that the donation was not completed, or seeking Amazon gift cards. He cautioned that the only real fundraiser is through the official Facebook page.
In addition to his wife, Kanode is survived by their three adult children: sons Solomon and Samuel, and daughter Kirstie Shelton, as well as a young granddaughter, River Shelton.
Kanode began his career with the city of Martinsville’s Public Works department before joining the police department, where he became a well-respected officer. He was a member of the SWAT team, SCUBA team, Honor Guard, and was a firearms instructor and Field Training Officer, among other roles.
“It’s not often you meet a person who literally has no enemies,” Gilbert said. “Seth walked the walk. He was very religious, but he didn’t have to tell you — you just knew it by his actions. He was as good a person as I’ve ever worked with.”
Gilbert supervised Kanode in the Martinsville Police patrol division for several years.
“I remember one time we had a staff meeting where the chief called out all the lieutenants and made us share who our best officer was. I said, Seth. No question,” he said. “He was a really solid police officer that anyone would be proud to have in their department.”
Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith, who was Kanode’s sergeant when both worked for the Martinsville Police Department, called him “one of the very best to ever wear a badge” and praised his “unconditional bravery as a police officer.”
“He was a moral fortress. You just wanted to be better when you were around him,” Smith said.
Working the same shift for seven years, he said, “I’ve been in more life or death situations with him than I have with anyone else in my entire career. I couldn’t think of a better person to be with in those situations.”
Asked what inspired Kanode to join the police, Smith said, “I think Seth recognized that the profession needed him. He was born to be of service to man.”
Before working together at Martinsville Police Department, Ricky Walker grew up with Kanode from the time they were 6 or 7 years old. They graduated together from Laurel Park High School in 1981. He recalled Kanode as “an outstanding person, a very strong Christian man.”
“Seth was THE best police officer I have ever worked with,” Walker said. “Just an amazing guy, really conscientious and caring. He cared about the people he worked with and the people he served.”
As an officer, Kanode’s calm demeanor was an asset in tough situations.
“He was one of the bravest and steadiest officers I knew, always on an even keel,” Walker said. “I never saw Seth upset. You could only tell he was upset by the expression on his face, and even then it was rare.”
Smith recalled one night having to confront a man in a car who had a gun. “I was by myself, and I was so focused on the suspect with the gun that I didn’t even realize Seth had showed up. He helped me cover the guy, and we were ultimately able to get him in handcuffs without anybody getting hurt.”
The situation could have gone badly, he said. “If he hadn’t showed up, I think the guy would’ve tried me, and I probably would’ve had to shoot him.”
When engaged in a foot chase, Kanode’s speed was legendary among his colleagues and suspected criminals alike.
“Seth had a reputation on the street that you didn’t run from him, or you just went to jail tired,” Walker said.
Gilbert recalled that while Kanode was hired later in life than some officers, he was incredibly fit. In the fitness test, “he shattered the run. …He was like a machine.”
Smith confirmed, “He was one of the fastest guys I’ve ever known. He could fly. Someone would have a 50-yard head start on him, and he would run them down.”
He once caught the same suspect 11 different times, Smith said. “The guy kept trying to run from him, and Seth kept catching him. It became kind of a joke.”
After retiring from the city as a Master Police Officer in 2013, Kanode ran his own business, Foremost Tree and Power Service. He served as a deacon and worship leader at Hope Presbyterian Church as well as a volunteer fireman.
A master rappeller, Kanode also instructed several hundred local youth on the ropes course at Camp Lee Ford, Walker said.
Walker said he will especially miss their conversations. “If I hadn’t seen him in two days or two months, when I saw him again, it was like we’d just seen each other the day before,” he said. “He loved telling stories – some were on me, some were on himself. He was a really good listener. I’m really going to miss all the times we talked, especially in the last few years.”
On the fundraiser page, Gilbert noted that Kanode was an organ donor. “Even in death, Seth was giving of his organs to help save someone else! Not at all surprised!”
The community’s response to Kanode’s death and their support of Gilbert’s fundraiser show “how special he was to everybody,” Smith said. “A lot of people loved him.”
“I think it’s just a testament to the type of man that Seth was and the profound effect he had on people,” Walker said. “A man is not truly rich unless he has friends. Seth was the richest man I know.”