Everything Tom Skemp did in his life got him into jail. Not behind bars, that is, but rather in and out of them.continue at LaxTrib
As the La Crosse County Jail chaplain, Skemp offers support and compassion to inmates at will — no matter what their crime. Whether a convict is guilty of shoplifting or was charged with domestic assault, he focuses on a person’s heart instead of his or her failures.
“Having worked side by side with him, I do just see such a huge heart and passion for the folks in jail,” Ann Wales, secretary of the La Crosse Jail Ministry Board, said. “He truly sees the human being behind the person.”
Before becoming a county jail chaplain, Skemp served his country in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. He enlisted at the age of 21 and retired when he was 41.
Most of his military career was spent in radio communications sending messages back and forth between bases. He completed several missions over the years on a Navy submarine and “knows what it’s like to be locked up in a group of people,” Wales said.
When he retired from the service nearly 20 years ago, Skemp moved back to La Crosse, where he was born and raised, and enrolled in college to pursue a degree in ministry. He also became involved with the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse, Place of Grace and Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse.
A solid guy