For 31 years, Ken Antil of Howard Lake has put the welfare of the public ahead of his own as a police officer for the Wright County Sheriff's Department.
He will retire the end of October.
According to fellow officer Brooks Martin, who retired last month, Antil has the most envied job on the force.
Antil heads the Boat and Water Patrol Division for Wright County, and spends most of his time outdoors.
He started as a reservist for the county in 1966 and became a part time employee as dispatcher and jailer in 1967.
He had worked for a couple of places before this, but the very day he was laid off from his job, former sheriff Darrell Wolff stopped him on the road and asked him to come to work for the county.
He was a night patrol officer until 1977, when he gave up his sergeant stripes and took the boat and water patrol job, which put him on days. His wife, Pat, liked that, he said.
Antil worked weekends and holidays, always on call. Winter was kind of nice for awhile, he said, but then snowmobiles came along.
Now he teaches snowmobile safety classes and has put 4,000-5,000 kids through the program, he said.
"Wright County has 160 main lakes, water accesses and assorted duck sloughs to cover, and up until a year and a half ago, I was the only one," said Antil.
Now he has help from Steve Quill from Monticello. In the summer he also runs two personal water crafts and one reservist.
The reservists are volunteers, and Antil was responsible for the resurgence of the group.
"About 1975, the reserve program kind of quit. Then in 1977 we started the snow patrol. The reservists put in four to five thousand hours every year for Wright County," Antil said.
He is advisor and coordinator for the 30 reservists, and is responsible for scheduling for events, like the Wright County Fair, body searches, plane crashes, and training the snowmobile classes.
"I used to dive for the county and started the underwater recovery teams. There are 20 people on the teams, and they are all deputies," said Antil.
He said there are six certified as ice divers. When a plane crashed through the ice on a county lake, the teams spent three days recovering the four bodies from the ice-covered lake.
The recovery teams have a unique system that has since been imitated by other departments in the state.
Five divers are pulled behind a boat on ropes. The operator of the boat controls the search area Instead of covering a three-foot area with one person, the team covers a much larger area.
The divers can see four to five feet on either side and work together, searching a 45-50 foot swath.
"We've helped other counties with their searches as well," he said.
Antil said he was the first to do park patrol, but now there are part-time deputies and reservists who do that.
It isn't all serious, though. Antil said it is nice when you can help someone.
Antil has worked at the fair for 26 years as security, giving out bandaids and lots of ice water.
Practical jokes are a way to relieve tension in a very serious job. Brooks Martin was on the receiving end of one of Antil's practical jokes.
Antil discovered a large assortment of ladies underwear in one of the parks many years ago. He brought it to Howard Lake and hung it all over Brooks Martin's patrol car on the main street.
It was discovered by a local citizen who wishes to remain nameless. He rushed into the city hall and said to Martin, "Have you seen your car?"
Antil put a live turtle into the desk drawer of his secretary one day. She pulled on the drawer, but it appeared to be stuck.
He told her to stick her hand in and check it out. Just as she bent over to put in her hand, the turtle stuck his head out.
"She cleared two desks," he said.
"The meanest thing I ever did was to one of the reservists. He was being obnoxious, turning off my snowmobile all the time. So I told him to put a sign on a tree, and while he was away from his machine, I took the key.
The rest of us went into Rockford for lunch. I figured it was time for him to walk," said Antil.
As Antil recalled the years with the county, he said, "I started out as number nine on the seniority list, and now there are 76 under me.
"Joe Mackreth of Buffalo will replace me," he said. "This is really a young man's job. There is a lot of pressure, and it is time for a change."
Antil will not retire to a lawn chair or a remote control. He plans to get another job to keep busy, and of course there is his "honey do" list from his wife.
He got his own fishing boat wet for the first
time in two years last week, and plans to do more of that in the