78-year cop just can't retire from the job he loves
hear him before you see him.
Andy Griffith, Chuck Garner comes whistling down the sidewalk and saunters
into the Republic police station. One of the first things you notice about
Chuck is the way he carries himself and the warm smile he offers everyone.
You'd never guess this wiry, spry man is 78 years old and still serving
as a police officer.
"My law enforcement
career is her fault," says Chuck jokingly, while giving a nod to his wife,
Marcella. "We were newlyweds and I drove a bus cross-country for a living.
After a few months, she told me that she didn't marry me to be alone and
that I should get a different job. So I did.
"I heard the
police department in Springfield was hiring so I walked in and said 'I'd
like to be a police officer.' The chief asked me if I had any experience
and I said ÔNope, not one bit.' "
By that time,
young Chuck had already served his country for four years in World War
II landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day as part of a combat engineering battalion.
And that was all the Springfield police chief needed to hear to know Chuck
would be a good man to have working for the community.
He joined the
force in 1949 and when Uncle Sam called again, he served his country during
the Korean War. His efforts during both campaigns garnered Chuck two Purple
When he returned,
he went to work for the Green County Sheriff's Department and then for
the U.S. Department of Justice, traveling to various riots during the
After that harrowing
experience, Chuck signed on to the Republic police force. He's been there
15 years and isn't showing any signs of stopping.
He tried to retire
before at least three times.
"In the mid-1970s
I quit and pulled an 18-wheeler on a run coast-to-coast," says Chuck.
"But even then I missed law enforcement, so I came back."
never been shot during police action, Chuck has had a few close calls.
nearly 7,000, hasn't had a bank robbery in quite awhile, but Chuck remembers
one incident like it was yesterday.
"It was 1959 and
I worked for the Sheriff's Department in Green County then. I was washing
my car at home when I heard the radio say there'd been a bank robbery
in Republic," recalls Chuck.
"It just so happened
that the three guys who robbed the bank came out and their car wouldn't
start, so they took off on foot. So I jumped in my car and when I got
to the edge of town, I saw a guy running through an orchard acting like
he was trying to hide. I ran out there and there he was bank bag
He also recalls
a night many years ago when he was watching for speeders along Highway
65. He pulled over a driver racing down the road. "I walked up to the
guy and said 'Where do you think you're going in such a hurry?'"
While the man
replied, Chuck saw a bottle of whiskey in the seat beside him and a loaded
.38 which was cocked and pointed at him.
"I tried to ignore
the gun and just kept talking," said Chuck. "When he reached to pull the
door latch I jerked him out of the car by his hair and my boot came down
on the wrist holding the gun."
He later found
out the car had been stolen, a fact he wished he knew before he walked
up to the vehicle.
works 30 hours a week as one of Republic's reserve officers. His days
usually consist of patrolling the neighborhoods and businesses. He's
always on the watch for speeders, especially in school zones. But Chuck
isn't trying to add to Republic's coffers.
"I've never been
much of a ticket writer," says Chuck, who hasn't written a speeding ticket
in nearly six years. "Oh,
I stop people, but all I ever found is that speeding tickets make people
mad because you're getting into their billfolds. That usually doesn't
stop them from speeding either. I'd rather talk to them. I'm out here
to serve the people, not make them mad."
says if the situation requires a ticket, you're getting one. And, he says,
the quickest way to get a ticket is to argue with him.
Chuck brings an
old-fashioned approach to a profession that has drifted away from the
concept of community policing.
"He's from the
old school. He's worked up through the ranks," says Republic Police Chief
Chuck says his
4 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift is getting a little harder to take as the years
go by, but it's the shift he chose and still loves. But
Hartsell says his senior officer is as fit as any of the others, each
of whom goes through routine physical training and target practice on
a regular basis.
a situation I would hesitate sending Officer Garner on," says Hartsell.
there's only one thing he's ever heard Chuck complain about and that's
working on the computer. True, Chuck says he hates working an accident
for 30 minutes, only to do 2 hours of computer work. But he realizes that's
part of the job today.
and other state officials believe Chuck to be the oldest active-duty officer
in the Midwest, although there are no official records to support that.
If you ask him
if he's ever going to really retire, he just chuckles. "I love what I
do," says Chuck. "When I get into my patrol car, I don't have the slightest
idea what's going to happen that day and I like that."