Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Camaraderie chief among reasons lunch is fun

Nobody enjoys lunch more than I do. My friends will attest to that.

But mostly it’s not the food I enjoy so much as the people I’m with.

At least two days a week — Mondays and Saturdays — the cast of lunchtime characters is the same.
But one day a month — the first Wednesday — is a special occasion I set aside and mark in my book so I will be sure never to forget it — as if I ever would.

At precisely 11:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday, the Lake County Police Chiefs Association meets for lunch at Dino’s Restaurant on Route 306 in Willoughby.

They are always on time. Fortunately, I don’t have far to drive, being next door at Lakeland Community College when the time approaches.

It is an easy three-minute drive. Maybe two.

I have missed very few chiefs’ luncheons since Aug. 3, 1983. That was the day they made me an honorary lifetime member of their organization because of some help I was able to give them in passing a countywide narcotics levy to fund the bureau that relies on the taxpayers in its battle against the illegal drug establishment.

They gave me more credit than I deserved for passage of the narcotics levy.

Here’s what was unique about the campaign to educate the voters on the need: The News-Herald
published full-page ads, free of charge, containing pictures of every police chief in Lake County — except for one, who refused to take part — along with a quote from each chief on why the issue was important.

Even at that, the vote was a close call. But Lake County got its narcotics bureau, it has done a commendable job over the years of bringing drug dealers and users to justice, and I go on as a happy and contented member of the chiefs association.

I respect them tremendously — individually and collectively — for the work they do and for some of the things they sometimes have to put up with because, let’s face it, not everybody likes cops as much as I do.

The chiefs who recommended me for lifetime membership were Bill Crosier, who was Willoughby chief at the time (he is now retired as chief deputy of the sheriff’s department), the late Bill DePledge, who was chief of the Eastlake department, and Bob Davis, who was chief of the tiny Lakeland department.

But that was a part-time gig. Bob was also a full-time cop for 50 years with Eastlake, and a very good one at that.

The chiefs met for many years at Dino’s before it was Dino’s, when it was East Side Mo’s.
Then we went to the Painesville Elks Club for several years. That was a bit of a drive, but I always went.

Now we are back at Dino’s. Guess where I would rather meet?

It is always a treat when one of the highly respected retired chiefs shows up at an occasional meeting. Such was the case when former Mentor Chief Tom Fracci joined his former colleagues the other day.

The luncheons break up about 12:45 and the chiefs go back to work. Crosier, Willoughby Chief Conrad Straube and I sat around talking for a few minutes when Tom Fracci stopped by.

That guy is a treasure, both personally and in the treasure trove of stories he has to tell.

He loves to talk about crime coverage in The News-Herald. And he loves to reminisce about stories from the past that come back into clear focus with the re-telling.

“You had a girl reporter who worked for you who was so great,” Tom said. “Her name was...”
Bill Crosier interrupted. “Nancy Daniels,” he said.

“Yes,” Tom said. “That’s who it was.”

Excuse me, but old timers in the business are not offended by the term “girl reporter.” Nowadays, I’m not so sure. Nancy Daniels. Brenda Starr. They’re all girl reporters to me. So if you don’t like it, as the song from “Guys and Dolls” goes, sue me.

The four of us chiefs, including three real chiefs, Bill and Conrad and Tom, went on and on for some time about the days of yore when getting the story first and getting it right was uppermost in my mind and the cops were always there to help.

In addition to working together, we also had a lot of good times together. And I didn’t even mention the “pizza, beer and BS” poker games in the basement at Mentor Harbor Yachting Club. Nor will I mention them. It’s top secret.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You certainly got my father down pat! My husband and I read your column today and had a good giggle. My dad is one-of-kind! Thanks for making our day! Jill Fracci

February 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cousin, Jill, sent me this, Jim. Thank you for saying such nice words about my Uncle Tom, who truly is one of a kind! He loves Mentor more than anyone I know, and he has devoted his entire life to the police force there. Thanks, Jim. Hope to see you in Naples, or maybe in the summer in Mentor!
Monica Small

February 21, 2012 at 11:36 AM 

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