Published Date Written by Tom EastmanCONWAY — Larger than life, with a gift for knowing everyone in his community and treating them fairly.
That's how many saluted late former Conway police chief William “Bill” R. Scaletti, who died Aug. 26 at age 79 in Acworth, Ga., where he often resided when not in Conway to be near his daughters and grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled to be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, in the chapel of Marietta Funeral Home and Crematory in Marietta, Ga., with pastor Joseph Brothers officiating.
Raised in Redstone, where his father was a stonecutter at the quarry, Scaletti served as the chief of police in North Conway for 10 years from 1984 to 1993. He worked as a police officer for 37 years, both for Conway and the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.
He was a veteran of the Korean War.
He is survived by his wife, Opal Scaletti of Acworth; daughters, Margaret (Peter) Harring of Acworth, Dorothy Scaletti of Acworth and Christine (Richard) Murray of North Conway; brother, Dino Scaletti; sister, Anita Patsos; several grandchildren and great grandchildren; several nieces and nephews.
“I served with Bill for 25 years,” said retired Conway police Lt. Dave Bennett of Conway. “We were both patrolmen together, then he left for a while — I think that was when he wanted to try his hand at being a lobsterman on the Maine coast. Then he came back and was a deputy sheriff, and came back to Conway and rose up the ranks from patrolman to become chief. He was a fair chief, and a good friend,” said Bennett, who retired in 2001.
“He would listen to you and he would weigh it out,” said Bennett, who was second in command. “If you came in, whether with a problem or a solution, he would listen and then tell you to get the hell out of his office and then mull it over. When you came back in, he would render his decision. Bob Mullen [Scaletti's successor] was the same way.”
Bennett said Scaletti treated the community with respect.
“To be a good police officer,” said Bennett, “you've got to become a friend of the people. You've got to work with each situation. You've got to like people. Bill loved people.”
Conway police Chief Ed Wagner came on board at the department in 1995, two years after Scaletti's retirement. He said he has heard many good stories about Scaletti, who was succeeded by Lt. Robert Mullen, and then by Jeff Dicey and Sean Billert before Wagner became chief.
“Our condolences go to his family, and we thank Chief Scaletti for his years of service to the department and the community,” said Wagner Wednesday.
He directed a reporter to the Conway Police Department's website, which had the following posting Wednesday:
“In Memoriam: Ret. Chief William R. Scaletti: December 2, 1932 - August 26, 2012: It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of retired chief William R. Scaletti of Acworth, Ga., on Aug. 26, 2012. Chief Scaletti served the law enforcement community for 32 years, serving as chief of Conway Police Department from 1984 to 1993. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chief Scaletti's wife, Opal, and his family.”
Dino Scaletti, brother-in-law to selectman Mary Seavey and younger brother to the late chief, said his brother loved to fish. He also loved to golf and also was an avid woodcarver.
“He was a kind older brother who didn't mind taking his little brother fishing when we were growing up,” said Dino Scaletti, a part-time resident of Redstone and Maryland. “In later years, he would always find people to do fix-up chores that were needed around my house, because he knew so many people.”
Ray Leavitt, a former school board member and selectman who now serves as fire chief for the Center Conway Fire Department, recalled Scaletti as a staunch defender of his department in his appearances before the board.
“When I was a selectman, Bill would come in and defend his department [and its budget requests] pretty good. It was always cordial. He was well-liked, because he had come up through the ranks as a patrolman, and he knew everybody in town,” said Leavitt.
A love for law enforcement
In an exit interview done over breakfast with The Conway Daily Sun's Lloyd Jones in February 1993 just days before his retirement, Scaletti shared some of his thoughts.
He was asked how he felt about leaving law enforcement.
"It's going to be sad. You can't do this stuff all these years and not feel some sadness. It's been a good job and a rewarding career,” he told Jones.
Asked what things were like when he started out, Scaletti told the following stories.
“My first day was in the summer of 1955. Phil Roberts was the chief. I remember the first time I ever faced anyone alone, it was an intoxicated female. Wow, was I ever nervous. She blasted me big time. That was my first encounter with a drunk person."
Scaletti was a special officer when he first started with the department in 1955, working a lot of weekends. He recalled those early patrols.
“We used to cover Main and Seavey streets,” related Scaletti, “and every 15 minutes or so we had to go to a certain pole, and if it was lit it meant we had a call for service. We had to call the operator and see where the call came from I can remember the old 'Bucket of Blood.' That wasn't its name, it was Cook's Barn Dance down in Center Conway where the telephone building is now. Everyone knew it as the Bucket of Blood because there were a couple of fights there every Saturday.”
He said he and other officers interacted with the community.
“We knew everyone back then and all it usually took was one man to handle a complaint. If you went a shift and had three complaints, you were busy and had a busy night,” he said. “You knew all of the kids and they'd come up and shoot the breeze with you. You had the opportunity to talk with the people back then. I think there was more respect for police officers back then. I'm not saying there's not a lot now, but things were different. Everyone spoke to you. Now, if I knew 20 percent of the townspeople, I'd be doing very well. I guess we drifted away for awhile from community-police relations. I'm glad to see that it's starting to come back."
Asked about his pay back then, Scaletti said his take-home pay was “$52 each week, and I got paid $7 a week for using my own vehicle. I can remember one week where my gas bill was $23."
He related the story of how he became chief.
“The police commissioners [Wes Gleason, Phil Roberts and Paul Hutchins] and chief Don Lance showed up at my door one night in January in 1984. They asked me if I wanted to be chief. I was a little shocked when they asked and had to do some thinking. I said yeah that night,” said Scaletti.
There were several tough setbacks. He and his wife lost their son Brian — then with the Carroll County Sheriff's Department — tragically in an automobile accident in the early 1990s.
Another troubling challenge was the never-solved hit-and-run that resulted in the death of Danny Grant in the mid-1980s. Grant's body was found on Old Bartlett Road.
On the flip side, he said perhaps the most amusing thing that happened to him in his years in law enforcement was when he nabbed a streaker who ran down Main Street.
“This is the funniest thing that ever happened while I was working,” Scaletti told Jones. “It was back in 1973 and I was on patrol in the area of the North Conway Community Center. I looked up and thought I saw someone streaking north by the Five and Dime store. I was right and I caught the guy at the Joe Jones parking lot. He asked me if he could put his pants on and I said, 'I don't know why the hell you'd want them on now, you just streaked down Main Street.' I got the first streaker we ever arrested in town. He was fined $25 and I believe he contested it.”
A large man, it may surprise some to know that Scaletti in his younger years was a graceful skier when he served as a ski instructor at Cranmore, according to Bennett.
“Yes, he was a big man, but it was like watching ballet when he skied,” said Bennett.
Scaletti is to be interred in a military cemetery in Georgia, according to Dino Scaletti. For more information, call the Marietta Funeral Home, 915 Piedmont Road, Marietta, Ga., 30066; phone (770) 422-1234.