SHIRLEY -- Reserve Police Officer Edward Walkonen has retired after 23 years working for the town.
For much of that time, he also held a full-time job as an educator in Fitchburg, where he taught for many years at the former B.F. Brown Junior High School before retiring several years ago.
Now, he has hung up both of his professional hats, but Walkonen will take a few mementos with him from his long service in Shirley, including certificates of appreciation from the Shirley Police Department and the Board of Selectmen on behalf of the town, both of which were presented to him at the selectmen's meeting Monday night.
Police Chief J. Gregory Massak said he first met Walkonen in 1979 when they both worked as reserve police officers in Lunenburg and he had only praise for him now.
Walkonen was a department "fixture" in Shirley and well liked by the law enforcement team he worked with, Massak said.
Walkonen's was a familiar face around town, where he covered "every one of our Memorial Day parades," helped with traffic and worked the midnight shift while teaching school during the day, Massak said. "He was dedicated all around."
In the past, Walkonen often filled in as a patrol officer when the roster was short, Massak said. He has mostly worked traffic assignments recently, as he prepared to retire.
Massak and other team members attended Monday night's selectmen's meeting to give Walkonen a proper send-off.
Besides the handsomely framed document, Chief Massak gave Walkonen a gift that added emotional depth to the formal farewell: his badge. Ensconced in a black case, Badge 14, his former "unit number," bears his name and new title: Retired Police Officer.
"It's been a pleasure working with you all and a pleasure serving the people of Shirley," said Walkonen. "You treated me ... as a friend and I look at all of you as friends, too."