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7/30/2010 11:17:00 AM
Forest ranger Mark Kubisiak earns coveted law enforcement award
Forest ranger Mark Kubisiak, a 22-year employee of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, was awarded the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award for his leadership in apprehending a murder suspect in the state forest in July 2009.
Contributed photo
Forest ranger Mark Kubisiak, a 22-year employee of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, was awarded the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award for his leadership in apprehending a murder suspect in the state forest in July 2009. Contributed photo

Julie Wroblewski

Forest rangers aren't perceived as the type of law enforcement officers to nab murderers; regardless, they're trained for it.

When ranger Mark Kubisiak was put to task to do just that, he said he was only doing his job.

His peers thought he went above and beyond the call of duty, and subsequently Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest ranger Kubisiak was awarded the 2009 Excellence in Law Enforcement Award for outstanding contributions to the forestry program.

It's given to only one person in the entire state each year.

The nomination stemmed from Kubisiak's handling of a July 2009 incident in the forest, in which a fugitive who murdered his wife was apprehended in the North Trout Lake campground.

Kubisiak oversaw and helped coordinated the arrest of 65-year-old Thomas McFeggan for the murder of Carol McFeggan in Rockford, Ill.

On July 1, 2009, Kubisiak received a fax notification that Rockford law enforcement was looking for Thomas McFeggan who may have been camping somewhere in NH-AL Forest. McFeggan had left a note in Illinois suggesting he was going to "a quiet secluded place in the country to pray for forgiveness and to watch my final sunrise."

"I followed up with the fax by contacting all 18 of the NH-AL campground managers," Kubisiak said. "It was confirmed by the North Trout Lake campground manager that McFeggan had checked in there."

McFeggan had registered at the campground under his own name and after some investigative work, Kubisiak was able to determine McFeggan's location.

By coordinating with the Vilas County Sheriff's Department, the Wisconsin State Police and other law enforcement personnel, McFeggan was taken into custody at about 3 p.m. July 1, while fishing at the Fishtrap Lake/Manitowish River dam.

An excerpt from the award nomination, submitted jointly by NH-AL superintendent Steve Petersen and ranger supervisors Bret Bockhop, Bob Schepper and Jeff Olsen, stated: "Though this was an unusual episode, it illustrates the value Mark contributes to the state forest. His interpersonal skills and familiarity with the sheriff's department are valuable every day.

"His historical knowledge of the state forest's operation and facilities, and his willingness to get the job done contribute to a whole package that demonstrates what a ranger really is. Whether it's straightening out a camper reservation problem, giving directions to a snowmobiler, solving a timber theft or finding a homicidal fugitive, Mark approaches it all with a calm professionalism that should be a model to all rangers."

Kubisiak was presented with the award June 2 in Wausau at a meeting of forestry leadership.

Petersen said Kubisiak is cool under pressure.

"He was our key person there that day. Mark made the initial contact with Vilas County, who also did a terrific job in handling the arrest," Petersen said. "We absolutely trust Mark and he knows everyone and works well with Vilas County so it was only natural that he continue as the liaison during the episode."

Kubisiak has worked in forestry for 29 years, 22 of which have been at the NH-AL.

He said his actions that day complied with his desire to provide a safe environment in the forest, which he said is sort of like a small city of its own.

"It's all part of the job," Kubisiak said. "When I was notified of the award, I was surprised. I didn't expect that."

He takes his job seriously.

"We aren't Yogi Bears out here. We're in law enforcement positions and are just as capable as any other law enforcement in any other department," Kubisiak said. "We continue training and have to be aware of everything going on around us at all times."

There are two trainers at the forest who keep staff up-to-date on firearms and tactical training periodically.

After the apprehension, McFeggan was extradited by Rockford authorities to the Winnebago County, Ill., county jail.

He pleaded guilty in the murder case and was sentenced in March to 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

For Kubisiak, who plans to spend the rest of his working years at the NH-AL, his career choice runs in the family. His retired father was a game warden with the Department of Natural Resources for 39 years; his brother is a game warden instructor in Stevens Point; and his uncle is a game warden along the Mississippi River.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 9, 2010
Article comment by: Tom Leith

Congratulations Mark. Good to see you get the award.

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