LOCAL                                                                           TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2005                                                                                Page 3


Austin native named

Chaplain of the Year

Austin Daily Herald                          


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).  The award was presented at the VIPS annual summer picnic September 7th.


In 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.  A 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.


Chaplain 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 diving.  Many area rescue units responded to assist over a period of a week in the recovery operations.  The deceased’s family remained on-scene day and night as recovery efforts were made to no avail.


Even 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 agencies.  When 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.  Later, 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.


Bigelow, who at Maple Grove, MN., is a 1969 graduate of Austin High School.  His 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).