Birdseye town marshal, 69, dies

Photo courtesy Birdseye Quasquicentennial history book
Birdseye Town Marshal Bob Jenkins was known for catching, cleaning and freezing fish until he had enough to invite the town to one of his frequent fish fries at Bethlehem Lodge No. 574, F&AM. All donations went to the lodge.

By BILL POWELL
Herald Staff Writer

BIRDSEYE — Town residents and members of the local law enforcement community reacting to Monday’s death of 69-year-old Robert Jenkins said Birdseye is saying goodbye to a town marshal whose sometimes gruff exterior could never hide the heart of gold for which he will be remembered.

Jenkins

Jenkins, who had served as marshal since January 1994, had told town officials he had been battling lung cancer, according to Town Council President Jerry Allstott.

Dubois County Sheriff Donny Lampert remembers being promoted from jailer to deputy in 1990, just prior to Jenkins taking office. He and other deputies were making a lot of runs to Birdseye to handle trouble at that time.

Then Jenkins arrived on the scene as marshal and he brought calm with him, according to Lampert. It was all about the way he talked with people, the sheriff said.

“He didn’t play politics,” Lampert said. “He didn’t play games. It was point blank. He talked to people in a way they understood. One person might need a butt-chewing and another might just need someone to listen to them a little bit. With some people, it just depends on how you tell them sometimes.

“He had a knack for figuring that out. It was almost like somebody dropped him down from heaven to kind of help out and watch out for people.”

Even the people who did not like Jenkins respected him, Lampert said. The sheriff guessed that partly owed to Jenkins never giving up on someone, especially those who needed to turn their lives around.

“I’ve seen him frustrated but I’ve never seen him give up on anybody,” the sheriff said. “He cared about everybody he was dealing with.”

Councilman Romie Striegel said Jenkins was known for talking to and trying to work with the town’s young people. He said Jenkins was also very knowledgeable about town government and town utilities.

“He’ll be sorely missed by our town,” Striegel said.

Jenkins was retired from Norfolk Southern Railroad by the time he became marshal. He had served off and on as a deputy marshal in years previous to that, Councilwoman Kelly Wiseman said.

Wiseman said Jenkins’ late wife, Carolyn, was a second cousin to her but she always knew the marshal as “Uncle Bob” growing up. With him, she said, there was right and wrong. You either liked him or you didn’t. “He’s one of those guys you just don’t run across every day.”

Jenkins was a Master Mason and past Master of Bethlehem Lodge No. 574, F&AM in Birdseye. He was known for catching, cleaning and freezing fish until he had enough to invite the town to one of his frequent fish fries at the lodge. All donations went to the lodge, Wiseman said, adding that the marshal did a lot of things behind the scenes to benefit the town.

Allstott remembers Jenkins working through the weekend to help repair a Saturday night water main break. “We workedon it Sunday morning,” Allstott said. “He stayed out and ran to get parts. It was a big help.”

In 2008, the Jasper Jaycees named Jenkins their organization’s outstanding law enforcement officer, stating the award was not limited to just those living and working in Jasper. Jenkins was nominated by several area police and conservation officers who cited the lawman’s knowledge of the area and his willingness to help anytime in any situation.

County law enforcement agencies always could count on Jenkins to assist on calls, according to the sheriff. “He’s come and helped us in places you’d never expect him to be,” Lampert said. “He believed everyone worked together.”

Tammy Luker, the Huntingburg Police Department’s 20-year administrative assistant and Indiana Data and Communications System coordinator, had known Jenkins through policing channels for two decades but, during the last three and a half years, Birdseye paid her a stipend to train Jenkins on his in-car mobile network that included a laptop computer with MobileCop and eTicket software.
“I did it so he could get online with the rest of the county,” Luker said.

She said working closely with Jenkins on the new technology meant that he sometimes called late at night with a computer problem and would end up pulling into her driveway outside of Birdseye. He always would bring her a Diet Pepsi and, while she fixed the problem, he would expound on life, death, guns, dogs and computers. Her children came to adore the marshal, she said.

“We’re going to miss him something terrible,” Luker said.

During ride-alongs to train on new equipment or software, Jenkins introduced Luker as his guardian angel. He took to asking for his guardian angel when he’d call the Huntingburg police station, Luker said.

After word came of Jenkins’ death, Luker said, one of her friends told her that Jenkins is her guardian angel now.

“I lost it,” she said.

Allsott said the town council will meet Tuesday to decide on a course of action in the wake of Jenkins’ death.

Jenkins’ obituary is here.

Contact Bill Powell at bpowell@dcherald.com




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