The Rev. Thomas
Knopf-Bigelow, an Austin native, was named the 2004 Chaplain of the Year by the
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Volunteers In Public Service unit (VIPS).
award was presented at the VIPS annual summer picnic September 7th.
November 2004, Chaplain Bigelow was the on-duty chaplain when the Ramsey County
Sheriff’s Office received an emergency call to respond to a drowning.
young college student on a qualifying dive with others was believed to be dead
in the Mississippi river. St.
Paul Fire rescue and Ramsey County Sheriff’s Water Rescue were the first
emergency services units on the scene. Hopes
for a rescue quickly turned into a body recovery operation.
Bigelow was initially assigned to notify the deceased’s family of the loss and
to transport the family to the scene. Once
on scene, Chaplain Bigelow became liaison between the family and rescue
operations personnel. The
rescue operation became complicated because of the high speed currents in the
river, placing rescue personnel in danger, both on the water surface and in
area rescue units responded to assist over a period of a week in the recovery
deceased’s family remained on-scene day and night as recovery efforts were made
to no avail.
though his regular duty week had ended, Chaplain Bigelow stayed on-scene day
and night caring for the family, friends and rescue personnel from many
major operations were stopped and daily checks were initiated for the remains,
Chaplain Bigelow participated in a small memorial service on the river surface
with the family and their local clergy in rescue boats.
he attended and/or participated in three different memorial services, two at
the family church and one in Northfield, MN. A
recovery was eventually made three months later.
who at Maple Grove, MN., is a 1969 graduate of Austin High School.
family was employed for three generations at the Hormel Foods Corporation’s
flagship plant in Austin. He
is a pastor emeritus and founder/Prefect of a new religious society within the
Heartland Old Catholic Church (Society of Clerics of St. Jean -Marie Vianney).