The following article was published on 2-16-18 in the Billings Gazette honoring 40 years of Paul Reeder’s faithful chaplaincy work. Paul is a long-term member of FBC Billings. He served many years as the executive director of Friendship House for 22 years. Prior to that he pastored several ABC churches including FBC Havre and FBC Great Falls.
Paul Reeder didn’t know he’d be the guest of honor Thursday night. Reeder’s family, friends and colleagues surprised him with a special recognition at the annual police appreciation banquet Thursday at the Big Horn Resort, toasting his tenure with the Billings Police Department. After 40 years as a chaplain, Reeder will retire at the end of the month. One of a dozen current chaplains, he’s the last to leave from the original cohort when the program started in 1978.
Chief St. John said Reeder was the oldest member of BPD, both in age and in seniority. Next in line is the chief himself, he said. “The best I could do for a comparison to you is Queen Elizabeth,” St. John joked. “She is a ruling monarch, circa 1978.”
St. John said that through Reeder’s decades of “selfless service” and his trademark contribution of “massive amounts of baked goods” at Christmas time, he made an impact on the police department. “You will always be remembered,” he said, before presenting Reeder with a plaque and blanket. Reeder was known in the department for hosting an annual breakfast and sending out birthday cards to each officer.
Police chaplains provide emotional support to officers, police staff and members of the public. They attend shift briefings, perform death notices, serve on call and respond directly to crime scenes. BPD’s 12 chaplains put in 1,322 volunteer hours in 2016, according to that year’s annual report. In 2012, the International Conference of Police Chaplains gave Reeder the Special Recognition Award, an honor that’s given out only periodically, and not on an annual basis.
Reeder, who retired as the executive director of Friendship House in 1996, is active in the Black Heritage Foundation of Yellowstone County. He’s also an avid book repairman, regularly setting up shop at police chaplain conferences to fix up attendees’ Bibles as needed. At age 87, Reeder spent almost half his life as a BPD chaplain. He thanked everyone who spoke on his behalf Thursday night. “It’s very evident from everything that’s happened here that nobody loves me,” Reeder joked.