Immaculate Conception, Knights of Columbus rekindle Father/Son Dinner after 40-year hiatus

Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch, second from left, is recognized at the Immaculate Conception Church Father/Son Dinner by Father Ronald Franco, second from right, Father Gerard Tully, far left, and Bert Benedict, an Immaculate Conception parishioner and Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus 645.
Photo by Kara Lockmiller

The Knights of Columbus 645 breathed new life into an old tradition Nov. 8 at Immaculate Conception Church.
The first Father/Son Dinner since the 1960s, hosted by Grand Knight Bert Benedict, was held, with Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch delivering a candid keynote address about his deep roots in the Catholic Church and the close relationship he enjoyed with his father.
Catholic fathers and sons enjoyed camaraderie, with the Vols football game on television serving as a backdrop, as they feasted on hamburgers, hot dogs and all the trimmings provided by the Knights. After the meal and an opportunity to meet men from other parishes, attendees settled in for Rausch’s speech.
The police chief, who hails from a large Catholic family, was born, raised and enjoyed a Catholic education in Louisville, Ky., where he was the seventh son among eight boys and two girls. In Louisville, Rausch graduated from Bishop David High School before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and serving in the U.S. Army. He was hired by the Knoxville Police Department in 1993.
Rausch predicted he would be chief at an academy event just after being hired and the prediction was played back during his promotion to chief in March 2011. He credited his success to his father teaching him at a young age that he could be anything he wanted.

The chief is regarded in the department for his years of patrol experience and courage. He recounted one of the ways this quality developed, recalling how he and his brothers had to prove themselves before being allowed to move away from home. He said that test was a boxing match in the front yard with his father.
“I was more scared then than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said, smiling as he described catching his father with a lucky blow and knocking him out. He said it was then that his father knew he had what it took to take care of himself.
Rausch, who also was at the dinner with his son, Seth, said, “The bond between father and son is one of the tightest bonds life has for us. … My father gave me the strength to protect myself. It’s important that fathers pass on lessons to their sons.”
Among the lessons Rausch learned from his father was finding a passion. He said his father encouraged him to find an occupation he loved and looked forward to doing. Rausch said he found that at KPD.
“Sometimes I still can’t believe they pay me to do this,” he said.
Another lesson Rausch learned was “never forget where you came from.” The Rausch family was not wealthy but they always managed to have what they needed. Rausch said he inherited his father’s strong work ethic.
“He always worked two to three jobs to care for us,” he said. “My dad’s work ethic was something he never had to tell me. I saw it. I try to put everything I can into work.”
Other lessons touched on by Rausch were to listen more than you talk, be a learner, respect everyone and love is unconditional.
Rausch said the lessons taught to him by his father — by action and verbal instruction — have played a key role in making him the person and Catholic father he is today.
“Those are the lessons my father taught me and I hope to teach my son,” he said.
The Father/Son Dinner will again become an annual event, according to Benedict.
The Knights of Columbus 645 is affiliated with Immaculate Conception and Holy Ghost parishes. This year marked its 110th anniversary.

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