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Former FL Sheriff Ends Long Battle With Cancer

Former FL Sheriff Ends Long Battle With Cancer

In this 2001 photo, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ed Bieluch and McGruff the Crime Dog lead students at Belle Glade Elementary School in a Christmas carol following the presentation of the monthly "Do The Right Thing" awards. [Palm Beach County Sheriff's Depa

Palm Beach Post via YellowBrix

September 27, 2010

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL – Former Palm Beach County Sheriff Ed Bieluch, a career lawman who worked his way through the ranks and ventured into politics to fight crime and cronyism, then became an Anglican priest, died Sunday. He was 68.

“He just did anything he could do to help anyone at any time,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Ann Burke, who worked with Rev. Bieluch for more than 20 years. “Even at his own risk, politically and personally. He used to always say, ‘I’m a cop, not a politician.’ ”

Rev. Bieluch grabbed headlines when he retired from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and challenged Sheriff Bob Neumann, a politically connected former FBI agent. With less than half the campaign contributions, no college degree and no political experience, Rev. Bieluch handily defeated Neumann in 2000.

As sheriff, Rev. Bieluch quickly reopened a faith-based jail dorm that offered life-skills training. He no longer required two years of college for deputy applicants, crediting military and other law enforcement experience along with academics.

Rev. Bieluch took back raises that Neumann had given to several executives before he left office and removed six executives he considered to be political hires by Neumann. He took some heat from conservative organizations when he extended medical coverage to domestic partners. He committed himself to the Eagle Academy and the Sheriff’s Youth Camp, programs for at-risk youth, even spending his own money.

Once in office, Rev. Bieluch made appearances based on where he could do the most good, not gain the most votes. When troops from the nearby armory left for Iraq, he made sure he was there. When the troops arrived home, he was at the airport to greet them.

He made regular appearances at the jail, walking among the inmates and asking what they needed. He showed up at crime scenes, not to look over his deputies’ shoulders, but to show he supported and valued their work and dedication.

“He tried to get down in the ditches,” said William Tremer, a retired undersheriff who worked with Rev. Bieluch for more than 30 years. “He was a big supporter of his people and he was very loyal. He always said, ‘Do the right thing.’ ”

Rev. Bieluch filed to run for office again in 2004 but later changed his mind. In August 2005, less than a year out of office, he was ordained an Anglican priest. The moved stunned outsiders, but not those who knew him well.

Thomas Burroughs, organist at Holy Spirit Anglican Catholic Church in Palm Springs, remembered Rev. Bieluch showing up for Mass after volunteering all night at the sheriff’s office.

“I was impressed that he had been up all night doing free work and, nonetheless, felt it was his duty to God to be present,” Burroughs said.

Delivering a sermon about a year ago, Rev. Bieluch told the parish he had cancer.

While undergoing treatment, he continued his work. When he learned that a Fort Myers parish had lost its priest, he drove across the state twice a month to say Mass. Even this year, he continued his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity.

“He epitomized the role of public servant,” Burke said. “When you envision a law enforcement officer, you should envision him.”

Rev. Bieluch is survived by his wife, Lynn; son, Jeff; and daughter, Katarzyna. Services are pending.

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