Richard Schwegel has been asked many times, but he’s still not sure why so many Schwegels take to heart the motto “To Protect and Serve.”
Five of Schwegel’s close relatives, including a brother and two sons, are public servants. Schwegel himself served for many years as a part-time Stearns County Sheriff’s deputy.
“I don’t know why that many Schwegels are in those jobs,” Richard said. “Sometimes I think it’s because my dad was a strict old-fashioned Navy guy and maybe we got it from him. But I just don’t know.”
Schwegel, a graduate of St. John’s University, is well known by his fellow St. Joseph residents as coordinator of Joetown Rocks, the annual music-and-fireworks celebration on the eve of the Fourth of July bash in St. Joseph. This July, he coordinated both the music celebration and the festival on the Fourth. Schwegel has just served as president of the St. Joseph Parish Council. He was also director of nutrition at the St. Cloud Hospital and – later – the St. Cloud VA Medical Center. He currently serves as manager of the Center’s health-promotion program. He and his wife, Darla, have two sons and one daughter. Darla sets up merchandising displays for several area companies, such as Target.
His two sons – Derek, 32; and Blake, 27 – are firefighters for the St. Cloud Fire Department. His daughter – Krystal, 29, of Hollywood – is business manager for one of the world’s top wine critics, James Suckling.
Schwegel’s younger brother, Rob, was the first one to become involved with law enforcement as a deputy in the late 1970s. When Richard, who had been a cook in the U.S. Navy, landed a job as assistant director of diatetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, he learned he could work part-time as a deputy for Olmstead County and eventually get a full-time license. So, for two years (1980-82), he worked there as a part-time deputy.
Back in the greater St. Cloud area, starting in 1982, Richard worked as a part-time Stearns County Sheriff’s deputy for 12 years. He quit the job in 1996 to spend more time with his children as they were growing up.
In the meantime, Rob Schwegel’s son, Chad, always dreamed – even as a little boy – about being able to go on patrol with his father for the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department. Some years later, Chad’s dream came true. After schooling, he became a Stearns County Sheriff’s deputy, just like his dad.
Richard’s youngest son, Blake, was always fascinated by true-life stories told by St. Cloud Fire Chief Bill Mund. When the Schwegels lived in St. Cloud, Mund was their next-door neighbor. Blake, who is now 27, always thought how cool it would be to become a firefighter. His dream, too, came true. As it happened however, Blake’s older brother, Derek, 32, was the first to be hired as a St. Cloud firefighter, about 10 years ago. Blake joined six years later.
Mathew Schwegel, the son of Roger Schwegel, was born in Canada because Roger, the younger brother of Richard, had become a school teacher in Canada. After Mathew graduated from Winnipeg High School, he attended St. John’s University, then joined Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He is now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Rangers unit and just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Richard continues to ponder why so many Schwegels were drawn to public service.
“They all do their jobs well,” he said. “They all like their careers. They are all very well trained in life-saving skills, and they’re not afraid to help people out.”