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Community rallies around family of man killed in St. Paul trench collapse

Bob Brandtjen had just witnessed his son graduate from Saint Thomas Academy. Weeks later, and just days before Father's Day, he was killed in a trench collapse.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — His son’s football field was a second home for Bob Brandtjen. According to family friend Pete Treacy, Brandtjen and his dog, Caesar, were familiar faces in the stands at the Saint Thomas Academy football games.

“He’s been coming to these games, and players will attest… not one did he ever miss,” said Treacy. “And I think that says a lot right there.”

Brandtjen was one of two construction workers killed in a trench collapse in Saint Paul Thursday. Brandtjen’s son, Bill, was there when it happened.

“Knowing what he went through, to witness things and to have that happen at this time in his life, on Father’s Day, all of it,” Treacy said. “He’s incredibly courageous.”

RELATED: Fire crews describe process of recovering two victims killed in trench collapse

Saturday, neighbors and family friends told KARE 11 Bob and Bill Brandtjen were inseparable and “attached at the hip.” They describe Bob as having a gregarious personality, with the ability to talk about just about any topic.

“When you talked to him, it was about people,” Treacy said. “It was very much about the relationships and stories of his life here and his family, his history, he covered it all.”

But above all, those who knew Bob Brandtjen said his children and his faith guided his life. He shared his faith with his son, Bill, who just graduated from Saint Thomas Academy. Just weeks ago, Bob witnessed Bill throw his graduation cap in the air on the steps of the cathedral at Saint Paul. They say that’s where Bob’s memorial service will be held.

“It’s going to be an outpouring of support that is beyond graduation. It’s the commendation of a life, so it’s fitting that these two things are not too far apart,” Treacy said. “The roses and the thorns go together in life, right? So this kid just had to experience that way earlier than he should.”

Treacy said right now, parents are rallying around Bill, who is heading to the University of Minnesota this fall to study engineering. A GoFundMe had raised more than $86,000 as of Sunday night.

“A lot of parents that have different skills are organizing… We’re having meetings to work through and say, how does the next phase of [Bill’s] life happen, how can we get him the professional support needed at the University, even beforehand.”

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