MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - WMBF News had no choice but to invite South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Lt. Bob Beres, known as “Trooper Bob,” to the station after hearing of his retirement. It’d been a while since he’d been there, and in the past few years his career took a different turn than most troopers. He won an Emmy, and has played a pivotal role in re-branding safety messages to the public, breathing new life into them with the changing times.
“I was actually born in a refugee camp in Austria. My mom and dad escaped from Hungary in 1970, and I was born in a refugee camp. We lived there for a little while. I came to the United States with my mom and dad and $500 dollars.” Trooper Bob told WMBF News.
He said the Beres family settled in a home behind a church in Fairfield, CT.
“In exchange for living in this little three room house behind the church, we were able to take care of the grounds, cut the grass and clean the church,” he added. Beres said they lived there for about eight years. He went to Fairfield High School and left for the Navy after graduation.
“After those four years I knew I wanted to do something different. So I left the Navy, no job. I had a sea bag on my back and by the time I walked down the long end of that pier, I just felt like God put his hand on my back and said look, I want you to help people.”
He decided law enforcement was his calling, but quickly found out agencies were looking for recruits with more experience. “You know what’s funny is I probably put in 20 different applications for everybody, city police, sheriff’s office to be a deputy. I even put in for Northwoods Mall to be a security guard and everybody said no.”
Beres ended up working security for the Medical University of South Carolina.
“When I worked at MUSC when I told my boss there that I really want to be a trooper, but I’m going to the sheriff’s office to be a deputy on the road. I remember him leaning back and crossing his arms and said ‘you’re never going to make it on highway patrol. You don’t have the education, the training, the background.’”
In the meantime, Beres said he saw a billboard on his way home from work one day for the highway patrol.
“I was like there’s no way they’re going to hire me. Everyone’s said no, I can’t even get into the mall. But they haven’t said no yet. There’s no way they were going to hire me. I got off the interstate and put an application in and sure enough did some testing and got my letter of acceptance letter to start August 14, 1994.”
After training, he returned to MUSC.
"Finally graduated on a Friday, on a Monday morning I shined my shoes and all the tires on my car, I pulled in front of that building and peaked in and he said ‘Beres?’ and I said ‘no sir, I’m Trooper Beres with the highway patrol. If you need anything I’m stationed up the road in Summerville. Just want to let you know. That’s all I said. Almost 25 years ago.”
His career began. He quickly started working with the media, where he got his nickname “Trooper Bob.” He said most heard “beer” or “bear” instead of his last name, Beres. So he made it easier.
Another memorable time for Beres comes after helping a neighbor. He said a grandmother fished in a creek every day. Trooper Bob had a boat he took out, and caught bigger fish. He said he shared fish with her, and one day her home burnt down. She had nothing.
“So I knew I had to do something. I got together with people in the community. We were able to get her a mobile home donated. Lowe’s put a refrigerator and stove in her house, clothes, people dropped by money,” Beres explained. Years later in 2008, he won “Trooper of the Year” from his actions.
Trooper Bob also said he was the kid in school who never wanted to read or be called on to speak up. He said at school events, he tries to recognize children similar to who he was, and encourage them to speak. He said it’s ironic he ended up doing the things he didn’t like as a child, like public speaking.
Fast forward to 2015 during the South Carolina floods. Beres said law enforcement was having issues with people driving around flood barricades and dying or getting hurt because of it. They started taking pictures to show what not to do, but it didn’t work. Then they tried videos. However, that didn’t work, either. During some down time at the emergency operations center, Beres started playing with emojis on his phone.
“I found a barricade, a sad face, fire and ems. I pretty much put a message together that said if you go around a barricade, the road will wash out from underneath you and police and fire will have to get you, and had an emoji guy with a band-aid. That reached 150,000 people, was tweeted 600 times. I took a screenshot of it,” he told WMBF News.
People responded to that. “I couldn’t believe it. That the picture didn’t mean anything and this little emoji message meant more,” Beres said while laughing.
Those messages turned into drunk driving and safe driving awareness messages that people couldn’t get enough of. The messages were universal. Everyone understood. They soon appeared on billboards, ice wraps, gas pump handles and high school football tickets. Then a commercial. Trooper Bob Beres and SCHP won an Emmy for the first of two commercials.
Beres has appeared on network television for his messages, and is quite popular across the Carolinas. He also gives emoji “Emmys” to reporters who wear their safety vests. He sends Tweets every night at 9 p.m. asking if followers know where the kids are. He said responses to that can be humorous.
“People started taking pictures of kids in crib, still on the couch, kids out to dinner right here, one lady sent me a picture of their ultrasound ‘I know where my baby is!’ People send me pictures of their pets. So it’s a good way to interact with the community. So one time I fell asleep early and forgot to send it out, and people said ‘Its 9 p.m. do you know where Trooper Bob is?’ it went crazy,” he said with a laugh.
Trooper Bob’s creativity has reached people and reporters across the country who fancy his refreshing ways to keep everyone safe. Although he’s now retired, Trooper Bob said he’s looking for the next thing. However, he’ll continue to bring his over 26,000 Twitter followers a smile and remind you to stay safe on his still very active accounts!
Thank you for your service Trooper Bob, and enjoy your retirement!