Wadena PD marks fifth anniversary of officer's death
It was five years ago this week that one of the town's true characters and a beloved police officer responded to a domestic disturbance at Wadena Square Apartments that turned into a struggle with a suspect, which led to a heart attack.
Wadena Police Officer Pete Resch became the only Wadena police officer to die while on duty on May 19, 2005.
This week, his fellow officers tied blue ribbons around sugar maple trees at the police department and near his grave at the Wadena Cemetery.
In their thoughts, they remembered a smiling, joking man who loved being around people.
"He knew everybody and remembered their names and faces," current Wadena Police Chief Bruce Uselman said. "He was so personable."
It was his people skills that made him a good uniformed cop, Uselman said. It also made him a great mentor for other officers.
"He had nicknames for everyone," Uselman recalled. "Our young officers, he would call them 'Grasshopper.' He'd say, 'Pay attention, Grasshopper, take notes."
His teaching soon brought him inside the walls of elementary school classrooms. Resch, a 15-year veteran of the Wadena Police Department, was instrumental in getting the DARE program established to keep local kids off drugs.
In a 2004 article in the Pioneer Journal, Resch said he thought DARE started a conversation.
"The kids go home after class and start conversations with their parents about drug abuse," he said. "It makes a difference."
Dispatcher Sharon Roberts remembered Resch as someone who never prepared or scripted anything he had to say in front of crowds.
"He never had to prepare for his speeches," she said. "He just stated it from his heart, I guess."
She also remembered Resch's singing.
"He had such a sense of humor," she said. "He used to sing a song from 'O Brother Where Art Thou' -- 'I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow' -- to make us laugh. He used to start his shift that way."
"He was such a crack-up, such a clown," Uselman said.
The law enforcement community, former DARE students and just people who knew and loved him showed up at droves at his funeral. Uselman estimated 3,000 people came.
A former fellow officer of Resch's left him a tribute on the Officer Down Memorial Page. Jeff Lucas, then a refuge officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recalled his early days as Resch's partner.
"Never a shift went by that I didn't learn something from Pete, whether it be about a statute, or about life," Lucas wrote. "I was amazed at how Pete was able to handle a situation with just his gift-of-gab. He could talk the feathers off a duck."
While there was definitely sadness as his co-workers remembered him this week, there was also appreciation to have been touched by a man who was so loved.
"We're just fortunate to have had him as long as we had him," Uselman said.