CLASS ACTION Checking up on seniors, cops don't miss a beat
The CLASS program has 38 members, most of whom live alone.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
NORTH LIMA -- Dick Bean likes visitors.
Beaver Township Patrolman Mitch Moore likes to visit.
"Mitch shows up about 9-ish, we have coffee and talk about things," Bean said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh, I don't know what we talk about," he hesitated, giving a meaningful look to the cop on the organ stool.
"Your escapades," Moore said, ignoring the look and laughing.
Bean's blush was barely noticeable.
In the beginning: Out getting the mail one day, Bean watched as Moore's cruiser pulled over and the friendly officer introduced himself. Moore told Bean about CLASS, Cops Looking After Special Seniors, and wondered if the 80-year-old retired contractor was interested in frequent visits.
They've been pals ever since.
"I really look forward to the visits," said Bean, a widower. "It's good to check up. You never know what's going to happen."
Moore characterized Bean as an unsung Navy hero of the World War II Normandy invasion.
"No, I went because I had to go," Bean said with a smile.
At 22, joining the Navy sounded like a good idea, considering the alternative was "living out of a pup tent" if the Army drafted him. His ship, LST 347, had been in the ocean off the Normandy coast and unloaded troops the day after D-Day, June 6, 1944.
"It doesn't seem like it was more than 50 years ago," Bean said.
With a slight prompt, he found a framed black and white photo of himself in his Navy uniform, probably taken in London.The young man looking back from the frame has his cap set at a roguish angle atop wavy dark hair.
"Look at all that hair, Dick!" Moore teased.
"I still got a good head of hair," Bean said, smoothing it with his right hand.
Sharing fortune: Bean, who built his house and knows most everyone in his neighborhood, has connected Moore with others who like the idea of officers' visiting. The cops and seniors share stories about families, their community and current events, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
So far, the CLASS program has signed up 38 elderly men and women, most of whom live alone. Sign-ups came from fliers, block watch meetings and word of mouth.
Police Chief Carl N. Frost said the seniors get in-home visits, at least twice a month, from one of the six officers assigned to them. The feedback, he said, has been very positive."They love it."
Frost said the idea just came to him one day when he thought about how much his department does for juveniles but not for seniors. The chief also noticed an increase in elderly suicides the past several years and thought his officers might be the bridge needed to carry despondent seniors over rough spots.
Other elderly folks, such as Bean and Flo Orr, do fine on their own, but they still appreciate the company.
Loves program: Orr -- who has six weeks before she turns 80 -- calls the CLASS program wonderful. She began talking about it as soon as she opened her front door and the wind whipped away a huge American flag, which Moore retrieved.
Moore said he spent most of a recent visit catching Sassy, Orr's new puppy.
Sassy's going on the papers now, she told Moore as she settled into an easy chair. Sometimes Moore can't stay too long, if that police radio on his belt squawks, Orr said. That means there's time only for hugs.
Moore knows all about Orr's family, including the grandkids. "You always keep me updated, Miss Flo," he said fondly to his elderly friend, a widow.
"I imagine there's a lot of single people who live alone and would like this," Orr said of the CLASS program. "I have four nephews, all in walking distance, and when they see the police car, I get calls."
As if on cue, one of the nephews who spotted the cruiser pulled into the driveway. Then the phone rang.
Until more people know about cops visiting seniors, seeing a Beaver Township cruiser linger at a house will likely still draw attention.
Rewarding experience: "These people are so neat," Moore said. "Getting to know them has been a real blessing to me."
He described the seniors he visits as full of life with wonderful senses of humor. Age, he said, doesn't diminish a personality, it enhances it.
Aside from Moore, who oversees the CLASS program, patrolmen Brian Hartman and Vince Arquilla, Lt. Ken Frost (no relation to the chief), Cpl. Jim Ball and patrolman Dan Lewis, the department's canine officer, participate. Barkley, a German shepherd, stays in Lewis' cruiser during visits.