Bob Fritz is ready to hit the open roadWORTHINGTON — It is hard to come up with an exact number, or even a general one, but the amount of children influenced by Worthington School Resource Officer Bob Fritz has to be in the thousands after his 20 years on the Worthington Police Department — a number he considers “mind boggling.”
WORTHINGTON — It is hard to come up with an exact number, or even a general one, but the amount of children influenced by Worthington School Resource Officer Bob Fritz has to be in the thousands after his 20 years on the Worthington Police Department — a number he considers “mind boggling.”
Fritz’s last day on the force is May 31, and as much as he is saddened by the thought of missing his police department and school “families,” he and his wife Laurie are ready to hook up their new fifth-wheel camper and hit the open road.
“The acreage is sold and we’re ready to travel the back roads and follow the weather,” he said. “By this winter we’ll be where it is warm. I left the scoop shovel with the acreage.”
As they follow a new path in their lives, the couple plans to visit the Grand Canyon, the Washington-Oregon area, the northeast parts of New York and the Rocky Mountains. They both have “bucket lists” of things they want to do and see, and luckily, their interests are similar.
“We’re each other’s best friends,” Fritz said with a smile. “And we don’t know if this journey will last a year or for the next 10 years. We’re just heading out there with no timeline and no plans set in stone.”
Fritz children Shawn and Megan have known for quite a while their parents are off into the great wide open, and have seemed to take it in stride, he said.
“We don’t have any grandkids yet, so we are going to travel while we can,” he added.
After 17 years as a DARE officer and 15 as the school resource officer, Fritz is on the second generation of children he once instructed, chatted with and helped, and leaving it all behind is not easy. Winding down the school year early gave him a chance to get things in order for his replacement — Officer Jacki Dawson.
“The program is in good hands,” Fritz said of Dawson. “She’ll do a great job, and will have the help of veteran DARE officer Kirk Honius.”
Laughing, Fritz described his own DARE teaching style as “backflips and animation,” and said he used plenty of props over the years to make an impression on the kids, bringing in drunk goggles and a phlegm jar as tools to catch their attention. In turn, the students have taught him to speak “a different language,” keeping him abreast of the latest, trends, hairstyles and music — not to mention which phrases and buzz words were still considered cool. His way of dealing with serious subjects in a light-hearted and sometimes silly way kept kids entertained while learning lessons that would help them all of their days.
It isn’t all just fun and games Frtiz dealt with over the years. The other side of his job has been taking on child protection calls and juvenile issues, including the abuse, neglect or sexual assault of children. While the calls could often be heartbreaking, it was the satisfaction of knowing he could help remove a child from a bad situation that kept him going.
“There have been times that someone would come up to me years later and tell me they don’t know where they would be today without what I had done,” Fritz admitted, his trademark smile sobering at the thought. “You hope you can make a difference in one or two lives, but you don’t know what kind of effect what you’re doing really has. When you take a kid out of a bad situation, put them in a good one and sit back and watch them blossom — that’s the best part.”
He credits the hard work of “the unsung heroes of child abuse,” Nobles County Family Services, in helping so many children get into better situations.
About five years ago, Fritz also took on another difficult role as an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force officer, tracking down those who share, distribute or even create child pornography. It was a bittersweet position, he said, because it was rewarding to stop someone involved with the crime, but yet disconcerting.
“The people who are part of that — that is the true face of evil,” he said. “Helping to stop the exploitation of children was rewarding.”
Getting through those cases while still keeping a smile on his face for the kids in his DARE classes and the school hallways was possible because of the others around him.
“I was totally blessed to have a supportive family and friends, and faith,” Fritz said. “And DARE has always been a great way to help keep my sanity, and was often the most fun part of my job.”
Watching his students build a positive relationship with a police officer was rewarding, knowing later on in life those students would remember the experience with a cop as a good one. For 17 years, the fifth-grade students in the Worthington School District, St. Mary’s and the Worthington Christian School got to know Officer Fritz. About 10 years ago, DARE education for seventh-grade students was added.
Frtiz admitted he will miss the teachers and staff at the schools, and his fellow officers at the Worthington Police Department.
“You really get to be like family, knowing each other so closely, working together day in and day out,” he said.
After working as a peace officer initially in Adrian, Fritz moved to the Worthington Police Department about a year later, patrolling part time and working in dispatch. Five years after being hired full-time, he stepped into the position of school resource officer, taking over from his mentor John Pellegrino.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but those were big shoes to fill,” he said. “It has been so rewarding to do the job, and I want to thank the citizens for allowing me to serve them and letting me be part of their children’s lives.”
Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck may be reached at