Called irreplaceable, Kendall retires from Rye Police force

Fifty-year veteran was practicing community policing before it came into vogue

Story by Ken Palm

Greg has a message on the back of his photo card for the youth of Rye.     
             Stay in school!
 The most important goal in your life   should be a good education.
             Lead, Don't follow!
             Respect yourself

After 50 years of service Gregory Kendall retired January 1, 2010, from the Rye Police Department as a part-time special police officer.

As a policeman Kendall was a model for doing community policing before anyone knew what the term meant. His calm presence has earned him not only the respect of his fellow officers in stressful situations but also the support of the community.

"He is irreplaceable," said Police Chief Kevin Walsh. "His knowledge of the people and  geography in the area can never be replaced. He is kind-hearted with a perfect demeanor. He is the perfect person to have when responding to a chaotic situation."

Kendall started working in Rye in 1960, combining teaching and police work. He worked full-time doing beach patrol summers and worked part-time from September to June. He was a sixth-grade teacher at Rye Junior High School and then, upon finishing his graduate studies at UNH and UMaine, became principal in 1969. After spending twenty two years as a school administrator, Greg retired from education in 1991. Gregory is married to his second wife, Althea, and between them they have five children and nine grandchildren.

Gregory has also been the Animal Control Officer since 2001. He is liable to get called out at any time of the day to attend to an animal hit by a car or any other animal-related incident. He has rescued raccoons from chimneys, taken care of bats, and has enforced the leash law on the beaches in the summer time. If a deer were to be hit by a car at night, Gregory would be sure to remove the deer from the road as quickly as possible. He said: "I don't want children on their way to school the next day to see a dead deer by the side of the road." In enforcing the leash law on the beach the law states the dog doesn't have to be on a leash but must be under control. "Sometimes that's a fine line," Greg said. "There wouldn't be a problem with dogs on the beach if people just used common sense." He also has advice for people who want to feed and take pictures of the swans in Eel Pond. "Don't do it."  They come to expect it and move out into the road. Each year he has been called to pick up a swan that has been hit by a car.

Gregory in the summer of 1966 at Jenness Beach, leaning against his 1964 Ford.

There have been many stories about all the things that have happened to him as a policeman in Rye over the years. One story he recalls in particular was when the Rye police got word that a prisoner had escaped from jail in New York and had relatives in Rye. It was expected that he would head in this direction. On patrol one night Gregory came across a car with New York plates parked near Rye beach. He called for backup and approached the car cautiously. As he got close, the car sped off. It headed up Route 1-A and turned up Washington Road. They had called ahead, and road blocks were set up quickly. The car stopped at a road block and officers descended on the car with guns drawn. In it was a couple scared to death. They fled, because they were having an affair and didn't want anyone to know. The convict was captured in New York before he ever got to New Hampshire.

Another incident that brings a smile to Kendall's face was when he was stationed in Rye Center one day and a young lady from out of state, with a panicked look on her face, stopped and asked for directions to a wedding in which she was to be a bridesmaid. She was late. He started to give directions and realized she would get lost because she didn't know the area, so he led her to the church himself to assure she arrived on time. She was so impressed with his kind act that upon returning home she wrote to the Rye police chief saying how impressed she was that he would take the time to make sure she wasn't late for the wedding.

Gregory has seen much change in his time. Before the new Public Safety Building, there was no jail, so those arrested and held had to be taken to Brentwood for incarceration. The Rye police station was shared with the town shed for a time, with police officers operating in rooms at the back. And there were no police cruisers. Officers used their own cars and simply slapped a flashing light on top of the roof and away they went. Modern concepts such as community policing weren't part of the job either, except in the case of Gregory Kendall.


February, 2010