His colleagues, friends, family and emergency personnel from surrounding towns surprised him with a send off on his last day.
Tearful goodbyes filled the parking lot of the Berlin Police Department last Monday afternoon. Lt. Bill Beasley knew many well wishes were coming his way from his colleagues on his last day with the police department after 25 years, but emergency personnel from surrounding towns including Pine Hill, Lindenwold and Winslow Township, along with Berlin EMS, former colleagues, friends and business owners in Berlin, surprised him with a sendoff before his shift was over.
It’s fitting Beasley’s last day on the job was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After all, Beasley started his career in emergency personnel on the ambulance squad because he’s always had the desire to help people. His emotions took over as he thanked those he’s worked with and others who came to give him well wishes.
“Everybody that came out here today, you guys don’t know how much it means to me; I’m here because of you guys,” Beasley said as he fought back tears. “I look around and I see the old guys and business owners in town and the new guys. You all helped me get here, we all worked together. It means so much to me to have you all here not only as co-workers but as friends. Thank you so much.”
Beasley also thanked his wife, Natalie, and two grown children, Bill and Jaclyn, for their support and for understanding all the times he missed family dinners and functions.
“We all know when the pager goes off when we’re about to sit down for dinner and we have to get up and go to that call,” he said. “We’ve all missed birthday parties, holidays, and we missed that nice hot meal as soon as it got put on the table, but we always got the job done.”
Natalie is looking forward to quality family time and not having any interruptions.
“He’s worked hard for this, and he definitely deserves it,” she said. “I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time together and not having to worry that he has to hurry up and finish something because he has to get back to work or get called out last minute.”
Growing up in Berlin
Beasley was raised in Berlin and has lived in the same house since the day he was born. He and his wife eventually bought his parents house.
“My version of moving is changing bedrooms,” he said laughing.
He went to grammar school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and then Eastern Regional High School. He and his wife wanted to raise their kids here so they could get the same education he received.
“The school systems are second to none,” Beasley said. “People come to Berlin because one of the main factors is the school system.”
Beasley has seen Berlin go through many changes over the years, from farmland turned into developed land and the changing of government.
“I’ve seen a lot of development come and built up; I’ve watched this town grow,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of council come in and a lot of council leave. I think Berlin is a unique place, that’s why people come here. It’s a great place to live.”
Career in emergency personnel
Beasley was just 16 when he joined the ambulance squad. He then joined the Berlin Fire Company before becoming a police officer.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad things in 25 years,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of incidents where it’s something that the normal person shouldn’t or can’t be exposed to.”
One memory that stands happened early in his career, when he had to take a daughter away from her father in a domestic case.
“She didn’t want to leave,” he recalled. “I have vivid memories of that. I don’t like seeing kids being put through that emotional roller coaster.”
When he was promoted to lieutenant in 2011, it was more of an administrative role, and as much as he was grateful to be lieutenant, he missed interacting with the public.
“When you’re working on the street, everyday is different,” he said. “One day you could be out there handling a burglary, the next day you could be helping an old lady or a neighbor. It was constantly changing, and you have to be able to adapt on the fly.”
One of the best parts about being a police officer was “on the job training,” interacting with people and making sure everyone was treated fairly, Beasley said.
“There may be times where you don’t always talk to grandmom the same way you talked to the guy you just locked up, but on the opposite scale, you can’t always talk down to the people you lock up because they are people, too,” he said. “Maybe they are having a bad day and are down on their luck, but it doesn’t make them a bad person. You treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Some of Beasley’s fondest memories were when he received two awards for CPR saves.
“It was one of the best things because I made a difference in not only somebody’s life, but their family’s lives,” he said.
Det. T.J. Varano called Beasley a father figure to the majority of the guys in the department, who according to him and Beasley, are under the age of 30.
“When he says something, it’s taken a with a little more seriousness than if you hear it from someone else because it’s almost like hearing it from your dad,” he said. “He always tried to keep us level headed and grounded. With a lot of the younger guys, they are looking for a little bit of guidance and it’s easier to get with him because he was always that guy who seemed like he had to the answer to every question.”
Beasley said he didn’t know all the answers, but the department worked together and helped each other in every situation to find a solution, which made their working relationship that much stronger.
“I can sit here and say I’m a lieutenant and I’ve been here for 25 years, but you know what? I don’t have all the answers, and I would go to a colleague and say what do you think of this? That’s how we work; we help each other. It’s so important to surround yourself with good people because you treat everybody the same and that makes your working relationship that much better. I work with a great group of guys; we are a tight knit family.”
Impact on others
Former Berlin police officer Helen Ann Legatie was teary-eyed as she spoke about Beasley and the impact he had on her during her career.
“He was a great mentor to me and somebody who I’ve taken lessons from and continue to learn from him,” she said. “He’s a good man and he was awesome to work with.”
The person affected most by Beasley’s retirement is Sgt. Mike Scheer. Best friends for a number of years, the two men and have a special bond and have watched their kids grow up together. They could barely hold their emotions back as they spoke highly of one another.
“You won’t find anyone more committed and dedicated to their profession than Bill; he’s second to none,” said Scheer, who’s been with the department since 2003. “He’s a fixture of this place. There was always that sense of calm when you’re out on the scene and Bill would show up and you knew everything was going to go OK. Everything that needed to get done was going to get done and probably tenfold. Away from the job, there’s not a better husband, father or role model.”
“I’m going to miss this guy, that’s what’s going to be tough,” Beasley said. “There’s a closeness that comes over time, and we’ve had such a good working relationship.”
Beasley has also made a tremendous impact on his son, Bill, and said he’s formed him into the man he is today.
“He did things his way, and they might not have been the perfect way, but he did it the right way, and that’s something I’m going to take with me in my career,” he said. “He’s been wearing his superhero costume since I’ve been born. There’s so much I’ve learned from him that I will take with me.”
What the future holds
Besides spending more time with family and traveling, Beasley isn’t exactly sure what the future holds, but he’s excited and somewhat nervous of what’s to come.
“I’m thrilled and have a little trepidation not knowing what the future is going to bring, but anxiously awaiting the next phase of my life,” he said. “It’s been a great ride, and it’s hard to believe it’s all done, but I’m sure my wife has a lot of stuff for me to get done at the house.”