Department, friends salute retiring police chief
Lorna Marquardt, Special to the Leader
On his last day of work, a group of active and retired law enforcement officers from a number of agencies, city staff, Police and Fire Commission members, elected officials, friends and family assembled together at The Gathering to pay tribute to retiring Shawano Police Chief Ed Whealon.
It was clear to see Ed was held in high esteem by those who retired before him. Thirteen retired Shawano police officers were in attendance. Debbie Dorak traveled from Texas, and Maynard Rosenberg came back early from Arizona to be in attendance. Robert Shanahan also traveled a distance to be here. Local attendees included Elroy (Butch) Bergner, Bruce Brodhagen, Gary Burr, Harold (Bern) Burrack, Mike Jesse, Scott Otto, Chuck Reinke, Al Schultz, Don Schoenhofen and Myron Heistad.
The master of ceremonies of the event was retired DNR warden and Ed’s longtime friend Rick Herzfeldt. During his welcome, Herzfeldt quipped, “Today we are here to roast and toast Ed Whealon.” He later spoke of Ed as being a character builder, instilling a strong work ethic in others.
To begin the program, members of the Shawano City Police Department presented the flags. Lt. Michael (Mike) Musolff led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was moving to see the entire city Police Department in attendance showing their respect and appreciation to their retiring chief. It was an honor being there among these dedicated men and women. Arrangements were made with the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department to provide coverage to allow all city officers to attend. I can only imagine how proud and humbled Chief Whealon must have felt having his officers there in full dress (hats included) paying tribute to him.
Vicar and former Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Steve Conradt gave the invocation. Herzfeldt joked, “Well, listening to him, I guess there is hope for all of us.” The audience chuckled and clapped in agreement.
Sheriff Randy Wright was the first speaker. He spoke of the years he worked side by side with Whealon during the time they were on patrol. Wright quoted the King James Bible Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Wright presented Whealon with a statue of an eagle representing American pride.
I was the next speaker. My comments were kept light; it is not an easy task saying goodbye to someone you admire and respect and know you will miss greatly. I thanked him on behalf of the community for his 34 years of service and wished him well as he begins the next phase of his life.
Anthony (Tony) Zielinski, president of the Shawano Police and Fire Commission, said, “There is nothing easy about being a police officer. Chief Whealon served the community in all capacities: patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and chief.”
Zielinski presented Whealon with two symbols, a ceramic bull and a soft teddy bear. He said the gifts represented the fact that there were times Whealon had a strong and dominant presence, while other times you saw the kind-hearted and caring person.
Ray Greco, supervisory special agent (retired), and Jerry Hruska, FBI special agent (retired), were among the attendees. Greco commented, “Ed was a trusted ally. His selfless efforts and cooperation were greatly appreciated.”
Hruska added, “It was an extreme honor and privilege to work with Ed.”
Greco presented Whealon with a certificate of appreciation from the FBI.
Police Capt. Jeff Heffernon invited everyone who had ever served with Ed to stand and he then said “Salute.” I noticed several family members and attendees wiping their eyes witnessing that final salute to Chief Whealon.
Heffernon also spoke of the “three amigos”: Ed Whealon, Al Schulz and Bruce Brodhagen, and what an intimidating threesome they were when a bar brawl would occur. “It didn’t take those guys long,” Heffernon joked.
Brian O’Keefe, administrator of the Division of Law Enforcement Services, presented a proclamation from the Department of Justice/State Attorney General’s Office. District Attorney Greg Parker presented the chief with a certificate of appreciation from State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
Former Menominee Tribal Police Chief Mark Waukau and acting Chief Tony Escalante were in attendance. Waukau’s comments were poignant as he spoke of the years he worked with Whealon. He placed a blanket on Whealon’s shoulder as a symbol of keeping the friendship warm. He said, “Together we did good things and we became partners, good friends.” He continued, “I remember one day when the chief put a key in my hand. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. He said he was giving me a key to the dump! We had a good laugh. It was actually a key to the firearms training range, which was a joint effort and one we were both proud of — and it’s located out behind the dump!”
Steve Witt, a personal friend of Whealon’s and a fellow member of the Oconto Boat Club, said, “It is my good fortune to know him and call him friend. Shawano’s loss of Ed’s time is our gain.”
Lt. Brad Rabideau presented the chief with his service weapon. Rabideau commented, “Everybody I meet is in some way better than me. … That is true of the chief. I learned so much from him.”
Lt. Dan Mauel and the Shawano Professional Police Association president, Officer Kurt Kitzman, did the presentation of the badges.
City Administrator Brian Knapp acknowledged how difficult it has been to have three department heads retire in one year. He commented,“Saying goodbye to co-workers is one of my least favorite things to do.”
Whealon introduced his wife, Diana, mother, aunt, brothers, sisters-in-law and his nephew. Whealon remembered something his dad said to him when he was deciding what career he was going to pursue: “Be the very best you can be, and that has always been my motto.”
Whealon thanked his mother for her encouraging support. His eyes glistened as he thanked his wife, Diana, saying she held him together. “Being the wife of a cop isn’t easy,” he said. “I missed holidays and special family events. She was always there for me and supportive of my career. We have been married for 34 years and I hope we can have 34 more.”
His wife had several business cards printed for Ed explaining his new job responsibilities at Complete Canine Care Centre. Those titles include Head of Maintenance and Buildings, Fleet Manager, Lawn Care Specialist, Human Resource Manager, Poop Patrol Supervisor and Chief Errand Boy. I guess we don’t need to worry about him sitting in a rocking chair any time soon!
“I am going to miss the people I worked with everyday,” Whealon said. “Watching them grow personally and professionally has been very satisfying for me. I view the people who work for the Shawano Police Department as family, but at the same time, as chief, my views and decisions had to be objective and for the good of the department.”
Whealon continued, “I will miss the interaction we have on an almost daily basis with the Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin State Patrol, Menominee Tribal Police and Menominee County Sheriff’s Department, and Stockbridge Police Department, along with many federal and state law enforcement agencies. I am proud of the relationships that we have developed over the years.”
Whealon thanked his office staff, Laura Woldt and Lisa Krause, for organizing the event, and he thanked everyone for making his last day special and memorable.
“I am not going to say good-bye. … I will see you around,” the chief concluded.
Officer #551 – 10-42