Setting the standard: Bader remembered as sheriff, family man
Ralph Bader was a man who walked the walk.
As the St. Croix County Sheriff for nearly 10 years, Bader held all of his deputies, and any law enforcement he was around, to high standards.
"He wanted you to make sure you were of high moral fiber — those were the words he used — and he preached it quite often," said retired Sheriff John Shilts, who was hired to the department by Bader.
He exemplified that high moral fiber himself, Shilts said. At a time when law enforcement was still working to be recognized as a profession, Shilts said Bader made his high standards not a policy, but a culture. One that has lasted beyond his four terms as sheriff, and one of the things he will be remembered for.
Bader, 86, died last month on July 22.
Family was the center of Bader's life. He married Darlene in 1956, and became the father of one son, Ron, and daughter, Delores. He later took great pride in being not only a husband and father, but grandfather and great-grandfather.
Bader was deeply committed to his work and felt privileged to serve in law enforcement, his family said in a statement.
"He took great pride in bringing a strong sense of integrity, fairness and professionalism to the department," the statement said.
A New Richmond High School graduate, he first started in law enforcement with the New Richmond Police Department in 1959, after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He later joined the St. Croix Highway Patrol, which merged with the sheriff's department, leading him to serve as an investigator before running for sheriff.
He oversaw many changes to the department, including the creation of an emergency response unit and the building of the new jail.
"Which was absolutely no small undertaking," Shilts said of that project.
A personal connection to the community he served was something Bader was dedicated to, his family said, and he met with civic groups throughout his terms.
"He was definitely someone who was available to the people he served," Shilts said.
Through it all, Bader was kind and genuine, and always put a smile on people's faces, Shilts said.
Bader made faith a priority in his life, something Shilts said showed in the way Bader interacted with people. His approach was that he could talk through anything with people, Shilts said.
"Got time for half a cup?" Bader would ask.
"It was the way he greeted you," Shilts said. "He always had time for a cup of coffee and to sit and chat about whatever."