Anoka County Union

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Posted: 12/30/04

'One of those officers bigger than life' dies

by L.A. Jones
Union editor

Lifelong Anoka resident Rudy Betlach, former Anoka High School football, baseball and track star and sergeant for the Anoka Police Department, "was a local cop in the good sense of the word," said Anoka Police Chief Ed Wilberg.

"He took the time to get know the residents," according to Wilberg about Betlach, 65, who the Anoka police chief remembers looking up to in his boyhood when Betlach was an athletic icon at the high school.

Betlach, who also served in the United States Navy from 1957 to 1960 on the USS Boxer, died Dec. 23.

When Wilberg started with the Anoka PD in 1975, Betlach was an investigator and taught a lot of the young recruits, including himself, according to Wilberg.

"He was one of those officers who was bigger than life," Wilberg said, having recorded numerous track records at Anoka HS. "He always took great pride in helping other police officers."

The one distinct thing Wilberg recalls most about Betlach was that he always had a tale to tell, and his tales were dramatic, heartfelt and affected the way people felt about things.

"His stories all had a point to them," Wilberg said. "He was the kind of a man with stories that showed good always overcame evil."

If there was a kid from a good family, according to the chief, Betlach would take him or her under his badge in a disciplinarian type of way because he knew he would receive better punishment from his family than any kind of punitive measures the juvenile justice system could possibly dole out.

Because Betlach lived all of his life in Anoka, he knew many of the families in the community and made it a point to make friends and acquaintances with everyone he met.

When he retired from the Anoka PD, Betlach had risen to master sergeant in charge of coordinating the patrol division. Betlach was also a member of the Anoka American Legion.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Sherrill L.; children Christine (Thomas) Vinje, Anthony Betlach, Elizabeth (Robert) Timm, Rachel (Matthew) Leshovsky, Theresa Betlach, Jessica (Peter) DuCharme; special daughter, Shari Frocier; sister Patricia A. Russell; brother Robert (Frances) Betlach; 13 grandchildren; one great granddaughter; and many nieces and nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial occurred Dec. 28 at St. Stephen's Catholic Church. Private interment was at Calvary Cemetery, Arrangements were by Gearhart Anoka Funeral Home.