The following tribute editorial is written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
ENFIELD, CT- I find writing to be fairly easy overall, especially if I am writing about something that I am passionate about.
When I was asked to write a tribute article about someone I worked with for nearly 29 years, I thought it would be easy. I have to say as I sit here with my laptop, I am having difficulty putting my thoughts to paper. The following comes from my own thoughts, as well as information from the Enfield Patch.
Officer Thomas Pyrcz, radio call number 251 joined the Enfield (CT) Police Department as a patrol officer in November 1979, just six months before I joined the department. When I had been an auxiliary officer a couple of years prior, Tom was a dispatcher, and I might add a very good one at that. Tom was a police explorer while he attended Enrico Fermi High School, also my alma mater.
Tom became an auxiliary police officer, then an assistant dog warden in 1972. He became a dispatcher in 1973 until he was sworn in as a police officer in 1979.
Police work was a different animal back in the 1980’s. The town we worked in was a “bar town,” and had the distinction of being just over the Massachusetts state line. The drinking age at the time in Connecticut was 18, while it was, I believe 20 in Massachusetts.
So, what did that mean? All the college kids from Springfield and UMass in Amherst used to make the trek down to Enfield to partake in a college student’s favorite pastime…drinking.
Tom was not by any means a giant…I’m guessing maybe he stood around 5’5-5’6…maybe. But ironically, all the big, bad college guys didn’t mess around with Tom. Maybe it was because he didn’t come across as a challenge, but I think it was more because of Tom’s demeanor. He was literally one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. He had a demeanor about him where he was just able to talk people down.
Tom was a friend to everyone he met. He met his wife Lynn while she was serving with our department as a volunteer with the Enfield Nurses Corps, a group of volunteer nurses who rode with Enfield police officers.
Why you may ask? Because at that time, not only were we police officers but we were all EMTs., and we ran the ambulance. We used to refer to ourselves as “Ambocops” and even had shirts made up with the likeness of Robocop getting out of an ambulance with stethoscope in hand. Good times.
Tom and I didn’t run in the same circles. We had different friends inside the department, but we always worked very well together. Tom just had a way of calming situations down.
I was always happy when he was sent as my backup because I knew that he would calm the situation, not inflame it as some of my co-workers had a propensity to do. And he also came in handy when dealing with Polish people because Tom was fluent in Polish.
The thing I remember about him is that just as I have a love for planes, Tom had a love for trains. Since we have Amtrak tracks going through Enfield, Tom used to bid District 5…the southern end of town which had the tracks going through.
Tom would park down by the railroad tracks, and he had a scanner in his cruiser so he would know when the trains were coming.
Truth be told, he didn’t need the scanner. He knew the schedule better than the engineers themselves. And Tom knew all of them, I think. When they would go through town and by Tom, they would all wave to him. In fact, I believe he even rode the locomotives a few times. That was who Tom was…he could make friends with anyone.
When the Enfield Police Department decided to become an accredited agency, Tom and I worked together on the program. Tom knew the accreditation process inside and out. If anyone had a question about an accreditation standard, we knew exactly who to go to.
As a supervisor, I relied on Tom a lot to answer questions on a policy or procedure. He was the heart of the accreditation team in Enfield.
Just prior to my retirement, Tom became the accreditation manager, which I know meant a lot to him. Achieving the recognition of all of his hard work on the process, which is extremely intensive, was an honor that I know he was proud of.
He became vice president of the Connecticut Police Accreditation Coalition in 2013.
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I know this will come as a shock, but I met my wife at Dunkin’ Donuts…go figure. She loved Tom. He would go into Dunkin’—in our old radio code days it was L3—and he’d always say, “Good to see ya [redacted]!”
That was Tom’s signature greeting. When I would go back to the PD after my retirement and if Tom was at the front desk, it was always, “Good to see ya Pat!”
Tom was not only a cop’s cop, but he was also an outstanding family man. He was married to his wife Lynn for around 30 years and they have two wonderful children, Steven—who is friends with one of my daughters—and Julie.
This morning, one of my friends, also a retired Enfield police officer texted me and said, “Something bad is going on at Enfield PD. They’re sending an ambulance to the station to the locker room.”
I immediately became concerned and my first thought was maybe something such as a suicide, something which is sadly on the rise in the ranks of police officers over the past several years.
I contacted one of the sergeants at the department whom I keep in close contact with to see if he was at work. He was not but said he would see if he could find something out. A short time later, he texted me back and said “251, and it doesn’t look good.”
Tom retired at the end of August, after being a part of the Enfield Police family for over 50 years, 41 as a police officer. I immediately actually got angry. “Why is it that someone works their entire life, and then cannot even enjoy their damn retirement?” I asked quietly to nobody in particular.
At that time, I did not know that Tom had died, but we get that feeling. And after all, it is 2020 and it’s been pretty much the worst year ever. I’ve already lost my cousin and brother-in-law to cancer, and my uncle in Ireland also passed away.
You see, this was the second Enfield officer in the past two years who had served the community for decades, retired, and then was taken away from us. How often have we seen that happen, where someone works for decades and then doesn’t get to enjoy their retirement? I’ve seen it more times than I care to think about.
I kind of knew that anyway because when I turned on the scanner app on my phone, I heard police units were escorting the ambulance to the hospital in Springfield, eight miles away. That type of response usually doesn’t mean good news. And it wasn’t.
My phone went off, a text message. Lt. Willie Pedemonti texted me and told me that we had lost Tom.
“I wanted to pass along some very unfortunate news. Tommy Pyrcz collapsed at EPD late this morning and CPR was initiated by PD members. He was transported to Baystate Hospital where he was pronounced at noontime.”
Tom couldn’t leave accreditation behind. After his retirement, he was brought back on a part-time basis as a civilian accreditation manager. If Lynn and his children were his first love, accreditation was his second…or maybe third after trains.
After news got out about his death, tributes poured in, as reported in The Patch.
Enfield Police Chief Alaric Fox:
“Officer Tom Pyrcz served the town of Enfield for a period of 50 years, beginning his service as an Enfield Police Department Explorer in 1969, and most recently, serving as the department’s civilian accreditation manager.
His dedication to the town of Enfield generally, and to ensuring the professionalism of the Enfield Police Department through the accreditation process in particular, was second to none.
We will remember Tom as a consummate professional, a role model police officer, and a true son of the town of Enfield.”
Retired Chief Carl Sferrazza:
“I am absolutely devastated right now. I am numb on so many levels. Toma and I were friends since I was about 15 years old. He had an amazing run with the town.
He wasn’t a giant of large stature, but all officers should be like Tommy Pyrcz, with compassion and the ability to talk to people. Being accreditation manager is a very responsible position, but no one was more loyal or hard-working than Tommy.
Nothing mattered more to hm than his wife and kids but right behind that was his love of public service.”
Detective Lt. Willie Pedemonti:
“I had the privilege of working with him full-time for the last 33 years. He did his job and did it well and was a very likable man. We had many conversations both professionally and personally, and he took the job of accreditation manager very seriously. He was well organized, knew what needed to be done, and was always on task. He was just an awesome guy.”
Enfield Mayor Mike Ludwick:
“Very devastating news on the sudden passing of such a well-liked, well respected, and highly dedicated town employee. Tom spent the majority of his life dedicated to serving the residents of the town of Enfield.
He surely will be missed by all. I want to personally wish his family and his friends some peace in their time of deep sorrow. A very, very sad day in the town of Enfield.”
On the Enfield Police Department Facebook page, hundreds of tributes poured in for Tom.
Former Connecticut State Police Captain and Northborough, Massachusetts Police Chief Mark Leahy: How profoundly sad. If anyone deserved a long and happy retirement it was Tom. RIP, Brother. Sincere condolences from Terry and I to Lynn and family.
Lisa Shelanskas: Tears are falling today. Thank you, Tom, for always being a welcome student in my classes, positive, helpful and an asset. I will never forget how much you helped me be a better teacher of EMS. To your family, thank you for sharing him with all of us. Never forgotten.”
Connecticut State Rep. Carol Hall: “I have known Tommy longer than I have known my husband, he was truly a dear friend to the both of us and we loved him dearly, our hearts are broken tonight and out love goes out to lynne and the kids xxxxx.”
My comments to The Patch:
“I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Tommy’s death. He was without a doubt one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. His service to the town of Enfield and the Enfield Police Department is legendary.
He was the heart and soul of the department’s CALEA accreditation process and the program was near and dear to him. He would always say “good to see ya” every time he would see you. Just a devastating loss for the EPD family.
I am stunned. My wife [redacted] and I, as well as our daughters send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Lynn, Steven, and Julie.”
I texted Tom’s son Steven to express my condolences to him and his family. He closed his reply with “He was my hero. Thanks PJ.”
Steven, he was everyone’s hero. For someone to serve their community for 50 years, selflessly and with honor and dedication is a staggering display of selfless service. He never forgot where he came from and he always brought a smile to the face of everyone he interacted with.
I cannot overstate what a loss to the Enfield community and the Enfield Police family his death is.
Until Valhalla, brother. Semper Cop.
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