Sheriff Mike Lukas (left) reads the dedication before presenting Benjamin Gaboda from Johnson Towing with the PCSO's Meritorious Conduct award on March 27. (Metro Wire photo)

Tow operator honored for meritorious conduct

By Brandi Makuski

An area tow operator has been honored for helping a member of the public last month.


Benjamin Gaboda was invited to the Portage Co. Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, when he was presented with the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office’s Meritorious Conduct award.

The sheriff’s office often presents awards during the Committee meetings, to keep Portage Co. Supervisors, and the public, better informed of heroic acts within the community.

Gaboda’s family was also in attendance for the presentation on March 27.

Sheriff Mike Lukas said the award stems from Gaboda’s response to a Feb. 29 incident on I-39 in the town of Pine Grove, when 911 callers were reporting a wrong-way driver shortly after midnight.

After conducting a traffic stop, deputies quickly learned that the motorist was an elderly man who was confused and lost, Lukas said.

“Deputies attempted to locate a family member, but could not do so,” he said, adding they determined that the man should not operate a motor vehicle for the rest of the night, and until he was more clear-headed.

Johnson Towing of Stevens Point was called to retrieve the vehicle from the roadway, with Gaboda at the helm of the responding truck. After learning a little bit about the man’s circumstances, he offered to pay for the man’s hotel room for the night and waived the towing fee.

Gaboda also declined offers from deputies to pay for it, Lukas said.

“His actions reflect the highest of credit upon himself, Johnson Towing of Stevens Point, and the entire Portage County community,” Lukas said.

Gaboda said he learned that the man was from the Lodi area, but no one was able to reach his family or neighbors. The man also had no money on him, so Gaboda gave the man $40 for breakfast the next morning.

The vehicle was towed to Econo Lodge on the city’s east side. Gaboda left the keys at the front desk with instructions to return them to the man at 9 a.m. the following morning, he said.

“If you can go help somebody, you just do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Gaboda said. “We treat everyone like we treat our family; that’s our company motto.”

Johnson Towing of Stevens Point is located at 3801 Patch St. and can be reached at 715-341-5335.