Remembering Jerry Kabe
According to his boss, former sheriff Roger Fletcher, Gerald “Jerry” Kabe never met anyone he didn’t like and want to visit with.
According to his daughter, Paula, he never met a meal he didn’t like eating.
And, according to his wife, Evie, he never met a fast car, motorcycle or boat he didn’t like and want to own.
“Jerry had a unique way with people,” Fletcher said last week. “He could talk to anybody and get them to feel like they were his best friend.”
And that included some very hardened criminals, including a few murderers.
Kabe died this past April 23 in Blue Earth, where he had been born on March 29, 1939.
Kabe was best known as being the Chief Deputy Sheriff in Faribault County for many years, but after he retired in 1991 he went on to careers as a private detective and then as an investigator for the public defenders office.
After he graduated from Elmore High School in 1957 he went into the Air Force and served until 1961.
He worked at a couple of local businesses until 1963 when then county sheriff Bernie Imm asked him to be his deputy sheriff.
“It was just the two of them patrolling the whole county,” Paula Kabe says. When they added another deputy, Ramon Steele, Kabe was promoted to chief deputy.
“Back then the sheriff and the deputies were responsible to buy their own cars,” Fletcher says. “And they bought some hot, fast cars.”
Paula Kabe says her father always wanted to “test” the cars to see just how fast they could go.
Sheriff Imm drove a bright red Ram-air 365 h.p. GTO ‘Judge’, while Kabe drove a 375 horsepower, cowl induction Chevelle Supersport.
“We needed something to keep up with the kids,” Imm is quoted as saying in a story in the Albert Lea Tribune about the unique squad cars.
When Imm retired, Fletcher became the sheriff in 1975 and he and Kabe became not just co-workers but best friends.
“As an investigator Jerry was the best,” Fletcher said. “He would not quit until he knew just what had happened in a case.”
There are plenty of stories of Kabe going in to “interrogate” a suspect and there would be talking and laughter coming from the room.
“When Jerry came out he knew everything about the guy and had learned about everything the guy had done and what he had stolen in the past 15 years,” Fletcher says. “He just had this ability. Many, many times he got people to talk when others could not.”
Then there is the famous Jane Doe case in Blue Earth.
“There was this guy in jail in Texas, Henry Lee Lucas,” Fletcher said. “He was in jail for a similar case in Texas like the Jane Doe case here.”
So, Chief Deputy Kabe went to Texas to interview him. When he came out of the jail cell, Kabe had learned all about 60 to 100 murders Lucas had confessed to him.
“But the judge sealed those files,” Fletcher says. “The Texas Rangers had their one case and Lucas was going away for life for that one murder, so they were not interested in the others.”
Kabe figured out that Lucas was murdering another girl in another state at the time of the Jane Doe murder in Blue Earth, so he could not have been here.
“Jerry said he got along fine with Lucas, and got him to tell him everything,” Fletcher says. “Jerry was the only one to interview him and get his full story.”
Those special investigative skills continued when Kabe became a private investigator, Fletcher adds.
“He was hired by an insurance company to find out if a guy had filed a false workmans’ comp claim,” Fletcher says. “He followed him to a bowling alley in Albert Lea and started talking with him, telling him he looked like an excellent bowler. Jerry had a new video camera in his car and asked the guy if he could try out his new camera and video him bowling so Jerry could study his technique later and the guy let him do it.”
Needless to say, the insurance company canceled the claim.
Off the job, Kabe was a very active guy.
“My dad never sat still very long,” Paula Kabe says. “He was always doing something, from water skiing including being tethered to a kite over the lake, to playing poker with his buddies.”
Kabe was also well known for his love of food and eating.
“My dad loved to eat, and he loved every kind of food,” Paula Kabe says. “Especially pasta. He ate a lot of pasta.”
Evie Kabe says her husband even said he loved the meals when he was in the Air Force.
She also remembers his love of cars.
“If he hadn’t been a sheriff’s deputy, he would have been a great car salesman,” Evie says. “He would always be buying a different car and bringing it home. He would tell someone about it and they would end up buying it.”
Paula Kabe agrees.
“I never knew what car would be in the driveway when I was a teenager,” she says. “I would just drive whatever car my dad said to take. And it might not be there the next day.”
Paula Kabe says she always felt her father knew just about everyone in the county. He was a very social person she explains, and her mother and former sheriff Fletcher agree.
“He had coffee and breakfast with fellow officers every morning, where they caught up with what was going on in the county,” Fletcher says. “And that continued after he retired.”
Kabe was also active in the community, serving as commander of the American Legion Post twice, president of the Blue Earth Lions Club, elder at his church St. Paul Lutheran, and founder and president of the Snow rovers snowmobile club.
“My dad just loved to talk to people, and laugh and joke with everyone,” Paula Kabe says. “He had a kind word about most people, and liked everyone.”
Roger Fletcher had one more comment about his good friend.
“Jerry had a love of life,” he says. “And he lived his life to the fullest.”