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Former Carlton County sheriff, Terry Twomey, dies at 81

Terry Twomey, seen here in 1983, served as sheriff of Carlton County for nearly 18 years. He died June 21 at age 81. News Tribune File Photo

As sheriff of Carlton County for nearly 18 years, Terry Twomey bucked the idea of wearing a uniform, instead coming to work in a suit and tie most days.

In fact, when he retired after 33 years in law enforcement, Twomey acknowledged that he entered the profession on a lark and never envisioned spending his career as a cop.

But he proved to be a popular figure, earning the overwhelming approval of Carlton County voters in four consecutive elections and serving as chief law enforcement officer from 1972 to 1990.

"He had a way of walking into a room and being a very large presence," recalled current Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, who was hired by Twomey in 1989. "But at the same time, he had an ability to be more soft-spoken. He would take the time to listen to people and hear them out."

Twomey died Wednesday, June 21, at Solvay Hospice House in Duluth. He was 81.

A Nashwauk native, Twomey got his start in police work when he was encouraged by a friend to take a trooper test after a stint in the Army. He spent the first 15 years of his career with the Minnesota State Patrol.

Twomey applied for and was appointed to the sheriff's post in 1972 when there was a vacancy mid-term. He served as president of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association in 1979, and was named the state's sheriff of the year in 1980.

He reflected on his service during an interview with the Duluth News Tribune upon his retirement.

"I never wore a uniform," Twomey said at the time. "I think of myself as a 'citizen soldier' elected by the people to be their policeman. I think you can stay closer to the people and they are more comfortable with you if you don't have that rigid, uniformed appearance."

Of his law enforcement career, Twomey added: "It's not something I always wanted to be. Frankly, I've never been totally enthused about being a cop, but there are some satisfying parts."

Twomey was a devout Catholic, regularly attending services before work and serving as a deacon for Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Cloquet. Lake said he continued doing some law enforcement chaplaincy in his retirement.

"We maintained contact throughout the years," she said. "Once in awhile, he'd call or I'd run into him. He would still maintain an interest in law enforcement and what we were doing and offer to lend a hand."

Twomey is survived by his wife Lillian, whom he was married to for nearly 60 years, and five children, according to his obituary.

Services were held Saturday at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.