Charles Whitbred, Jr - St. Paul Park FD

Charles Whitbred, Jr, - February 2, 1962

Bakers working late February 2, 1962 at the Applebaum's grocery in Cottage Grove discovered a fire. The Thompson Grove Fire Department was first on the scene, and called for help from St. Paul Park and Newport.

One of the St. Paul Park fireman at the scene was Charles Whitbred, Jr., son of the late fire chief. Newspaper accounts stated that Whitbred walked into the Thompson Grove fire hall, clothes dripping wet. It was a terrible night. Applebaum's, Ben Franklin and Homemaker's Guild stores were ablaze. Canned food, paint and ammunition inside were exploding. Strong winds whipped the hoses and their streams of water.

Before the fire would be brought under control, two St. Paul Park firemen would be taken to the hospital. William Blaksley had injured his arm, and needed medical treatment.

But nothing could be done for Whitbred. Newspaper accounts described how he borrowed a set of car keys from St. Paul Park Police Chief William Cross, so that he could drive home and put on dry clothes. But shortly after leaving the fire hall, he returned, saying he didn't feel well. Moments later, he collapsed. Whitbred was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Fire department and community members rallied around Whitbred's widow, Delores, and children Charles III, Pamela and Laura. Daughter Charlene was born not long after her father died. A dance and benefit basketball game were held, and a fund drive launched.

The 11-year 3M Chemoline employee and six-year fire department member was mourned by countless friends, family members, firemen and youths. Whitbred had spent much of his spare time coaching children in hockey, baseball and football. He was only 34 when he died.