February 21, 2024

Former sheriff who passed away remembered by present, past law enforcement

The second-longest tenured sheriff in Adair County history, Fred Skellenger, passed away last Thursday at the Salem Lutheran Homes and Rehabilitation Center in Elk Horn.

Current Adair County Sheriff Jeff Vandewater and retired State Trooper Clel Baudler are two men in law enforcement who remember Skellenger well.

Skellenger served as sheriff for four terms, from from Jan. 1, 1985 to Jan. 1, 2001. He was with the Greenfield Police Department before that and was the Adair County Assessor before that.

Vandewater approached Skellenger about a college internship in 1994, and it allowed him the opportunity to accompany Skellenger and the deputies for about six weeks that summer.

“Fred seemed firm, but fair, was a man of his word, was very hard working and extremely dedicated to serving the people of the county,” Vandewater said.

Baudler, who was with the Iowa State Patrol for 32 years and worked extensively with Skellenger, said the former sheriff was one of the most honest people he’s ever met.

“He was a really good sheriff,” Baudler said. “He was always out there looking, early in the mornings and late at night.”

Vandewater called him one of the most influential male figures in his life. He said the qualities he saw in Skellenger as a person and a peace officer were reasons he pursued a newly-approved deputy position in Adair County in 1997.

“Simply put, I wanted to work for and continue to learn from Fred. I did so knowing that there was a good chance that he would be retiring in a little over three years,” Vandewater said. “I think the thing that will always stand out to me the most was Fred’s dedication to service. Most days, Fred would be out in the car and on duty around 4 a.m. and usually worked until 3 p.m. or so. That kind of dedication was and is very uncommon, but that’s just how he was.”

Skellenger, 85, is survived by his wife, Virginia Kay Skellenger, one son, and many other relatives and friends. Services were Tuesday at the Greenfield United Methodist Church.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.