It was the final call to Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco Jr., who could no longer answer. The 74-year-old retired officer had died Friday, Sept. 27, after a long illness.
Morocco served as the longest — and the last — public safety commissioner for the city of North Adams. He served the city for more than four decades under five administrations, beginning as a park police officer at Windsor Lake in 1966 and 16 years as public safety commissioner.
He retired on Sept. 30, 2012, capping a career of 46 years involved in police work, including as a detective and lieutenant.
Morocco is credited with modernizing the police force, developing the city's first DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in the schools, working closely with TRIAD, and being a leader in the drug task force. He also was a past president of the New England Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association. He also had operated the scorebooard for the North Adams SteepleCats for 18 years.
His funeral on Thursday morning was attended by state and local officials, friends and family, and dozens of public safety personnel from the city and surrounding communities. Former Mayor Richard Alcombright and his longtime friend and former police partner Brian Foley eulogized him at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church.
The long procession to Southview Cemetery included police cruisers from North Adams, Adams, Williamstown and the Berkshire County sheriff's office and state police vehicles and motorcycles; and vehicles from the North Adams Fire Department, Northern Berkshire EMS, North Adams Wire & Alarm, and mobile command.
Marshall Street in front of St. Elizabeth's was closed to traffic and two ladder trucks — one each from Adams and North Adams — formed an arch displaying the American flag.
"He leaves an enduring legacy in the police officers and firefighters he trained and mentored, and in the leaders who followed him in the Fire and Police Departments," wrote Mayor Thomas Bernard in a joint statement on Saturday from he, Police Chief Jason Wood and Fire Chief Stephen Meranti.
At Southview, officers in uniform lined the pathway to the grave site and the Rev. David Anderson, pastor of First Baptist Church and the Fire Department chaplain, explained the three traditional actions taken for a lost firefighter or police officer.
"Each of these elements carry power and meaning for those who have served with the commissioner," he said. "Commissioner Morocco you will never be forgotten. Well done, good and faithful servant."
The first was the striking of the bell, two sets of rings to recall the alarm bell that guides a firefighter's life and a final one to note his passing. The second was the reciting of the law enforcement prayer by North Adams Police Chief Jason Wood; and the third the folding of the American flag draped across Morocco's coffin and presented to his family.
The final act was the call over dispatch, calling the commissioner home, followed by a police cruiser with lights and sirens moved through the cemetery.
"Commissioner John Morocco leaves behind his loving family and a legacy of 37 years dedicated service to your community. We thank you for your service to commonwealth and to the city of North Adams. We are 10-7 (out of service), Oct. 3, 2019. North Adams dispatch clear, 13:46."
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