Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 11, 2000

Death of officer is a reminder of what 'to protect, serve' means

December is National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial month. The Wright County Sheriff's Office encourages the public to remember those who gave their lives while they were serving the public.

By Lynda Jensen

Twenty years ago, at the end of December, Deputy Roger Wrobbel, 42, responded to the last call of his life.

Wrobbel, who served the Wright County Sheriff's office for 11 years, was called out to an ice rescue for a car that was suspected of going through the ice on Lake Pulaski.

The call came at 7:10 p.m., at the same time when Wrobbel's family gave him an early birthday celebration.

Wrobbel arrived at the lake with Deputy Ken Antil. Both men are from Howard Lake and worked together frequently on search and rescue operations.

The men quickly discerned that the vehicle, a Pinto wagon, had sunk through the ice. The owner made it out of the Pinto safely with her passenger earlier in the day, according to local ice fishermen. She failed to notify the sheriff's office about her predicament.

The two men started to mark off the open water area. Sergeant Don Hozempa also arrived to assist.

Antil said that Wrobbel seemed fine until they got out on the ice. "He was having trouble walking then everybody was," Antil said. "The lake was really slippery that night."

"I asked Roger if he was all right and he said he was,"Antil said.

The next thing Antil knew, Wrobbel was on the ice, unconscious.

All efforts to revive him were futile and although an ambulance arrived four minutes later, he never regained consciousness.

Wrobbel died of a massive heart attack.

At the time, Wrobbel left behind his wife, Janice and two sons Tim and Dean. Tim was a senior in high school and Dean was an eighth grader.

"It doesn't seem like 20 years," said Sheriff Gary Miller about Wrobbel's death.

Wrobbel is memorialized at the Minnesota and National Law Enforcement memorial sites. The Minnesota memorial is located in front of the capitol in St. Paul.

Both of Wrobbel's sons went on to serve the public as firefighters.

Tim served as a metro area firefighter. Tim's wife, Teresa, is an MD at the Buffalo clinic. They reside in Buffalo.

Dean inherited his father's love of firefighting (Wrobbel was a dedicated Howard Lake volunteer firefighter) and serves as a fireman with the St. Cloud fire department.

Dean's wife, Jill, is a teacher in the Annandale school district. They reside in Annandale.

Wrobbel's widow, Janice, remarried three years ago after raising her sons and spending 16 years as a widow.

She lives in Winsted with her husband, Jim Brooks.

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