Ed Walsh

“We’re Here For a Good Time, Not For a Long Time.” Remembering the Celebrated Life of Ipswich Police Officer Ed Walsh

by Gavin Keenan

Retired Ipswich Police Officer Edward Walsh died on Monday, January 15, 2018, after many years of tolerating a pesky cancer that just wouldn’t go away. Ed was born on October 25, 1940, His maternal grandmother nicknamed him Sonny, his mother called him Teddy. We knew him as Ed, Eddie, Edjue, Walshie, Sports Fans, Mister President, Jutt-Butt, The Chairman, Car One and Dock Master. Ed had worked for the Town nearly fifty years, beginning in 1969 as a rookie patrolman. This was back in the time when Stanley Surpitski (Charlie’s dad) was Chief of Police, the cops carried Colt 38 Specials, and drove an old Cadillac ambulance to medical aids and other calls when the cruisers were broken down as they often tended to be.

Ed spent his early years with his grandparents in Newburyport. He was the only child of John “Red” Walsh and Eunice Whalley. Ed came from plucky stock. His father was orphaned as a teenager and lived with his younger sister in Peabody. John Walsh worked in the tanneries there and in a not-uncommon accident for the times, lost a hand to a cutting machine. In spite of this setback, John remained independent and kept his sister from the clutches of the child welfare types who wanted to place her in an orphanage. Ed told me that his aunt never forgot her brother’s love and devotion for her, and she remained loyal to him until the end.

John landed a job at the Salem Hospital power plant. Eunice worked there as a nurse, and they courted and eventually married. John was ambitious, soon moving to a better position at Danvers State Hospital. According to Ed, John also ran a side business in Salem as an investment consultant with Swifty Swift, a local bookie. Ed recalled many a weekend walking throughout Salem with his Dad as they made stops at this candy store, that coffee shop and the occasional tavern. Ed told me he didn’t realize what his father had been up to until years later while having a coffee and jelly doughnut at Do-Nut Land, when the owner, Marty Cohen, told him that he had been one of his father’s best customers.

John had pull, and got the opportunity to be superintendent of the power plant at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. The family moved and Ed spent his teenage years in Holyoke, city life shaping his personality and coloring his outlook. He remained in Holyoke through high school, struggling to make his mark. He worked as a swim instructor at a Y day camp, a purveyor of women’s jewelry, and a Fuller Brush guy. Then he migrated back to familiar turf in Salem. He joined the National Guard and started working in the car business.

Salem in the early 1960’s was home to a number of auto dealerships. Ed told me he worked at all of them including Gauthier Motors, but he enjoyed Colonial Cadillac the most. Ed always liked the big, flashy cars. He lived in a two family in North Salem that his parents had owned. One day when closing a sale on a 56’ Nash Rambler, Ed got wind of a hell of a deal on an ocean view mansion in Ipswich. So sight unseen, he plucked down his life savings and bought 89 North Ridge Road, moved to Clamtown and called it home.

Although the car business was good money, Ed was John Walsh’s son and well versed in the benefits to be had from a job in the civil service. Thus inspired, Ed’s ambitions tilted away from the dog-eat-dog world of used cars and toward the more peaceful and spiritually fulfilling world of policing. Ed got tight with Harold Balch, the legendary grandee of Great Neck, who told him that Ipswich was experiencing a wave of crime and disorder and needed more cops…BAD! Harold swung Ed an interview with Sergeant Frank Geist who tried to dampen the kids’ enthusiasm, letting him know cops didn’t get commissions, bonuses, incentives or dealer plates. But Ed was determined to slip the trammels of a conventional life, and on August 25, 1969, signed up for the long haul with the constabulary.

Ed Walsh early in his career with the I.P.D.

His early days were filled with the rock em – sock-em that was Ipswich then. Bar fights, car wrecks on Route One, the Hayes Hotel Fire, women on fire, roving gang’s downtown, riots on Town Hill, and to his everlasting memory, a shoot-out on Spring Street. On that fateful night, he and his partner Pete Foote responded to a domestic dispute involving a disturbed individual with a rifle and got into a gun fight for their trouble. A combination of courage, luck, marksmanship and a boat load of tear gas saved their bacon and luckily, no one was killed. Ed would remember this event and always caution rookies, “Never get yourself into something that you can’t get yourself out of.” But to no one’s surprise, Ed often forgot his own advice when it came to matters of the heart.

Newly divorced, Ed caught the eye of a vivacious civilian employee of the Police Department by the name of Lori Hancock. Ed was a standout in uniform; the tall, dark and handsome type. Lori would laugh at his jokes and Ed would bat his eyes. One thing led to another, this came to that and before too long, Lori was Mrs. Ed Walsh. Ed got two step-kids in the deal, Lori’s children Doug and Jill, whom he helped guide along the straight and narrow and keep out of trouble. Neither of them would become cops nor sell cars.

Clearly, Lori had a heart for stray animals, and their home soon became a re-hab for all sorts of critters. Their pet raccoon used their roof to sun bathe, and the rhesus monkey once ate Charlie Cooper’s straw uniform Stetson. Unfortunately, Ed proved harder to keep, and their marriage went south. Although separated and eventually divorced, Ed and Lori remained friends until her death.

Writes left, shoots right. Ed Walsh April 1971 in the old station-house

Ever the entrepreneur, Ed was constantly engaged in a side hustle. Some of you may recall when he was an entertainment promoter, Ed Walsh Presents. He had a thing for Italian crooners and corralled a bevy of stars to his stable, including Anna-Maria Alberghetti and Angelo Picardi. They headlined some of our most popular Police Association fund-raisers. He was also a realtor with his own shingle – Realty Marketing Company, as well as a would-be golf pro in area fairways. But he could not escape the call of the road in a big, flashy car.

Ed bought a monstrous, ancient, black Cadillac, had the seats cleaned, then took out an add in the local papers proclaiming, The Centurion Armed Escort Service (Call 356-RIDE) was now open for business. A bunch of us were in his big sled one day to meet with the union lawyers in Boston. Ed hoped to impress them that we weren’t just a bunch of rubes from Palookaville. Things went well until we stopped at the tolls on the Tobin Bridge. While Ed was looking under the seat for some change, the muffler imploded and the noise from the Caddy became deafening. We made to the lawyers office in Scollay Square, but had to rip the dangling tail pipe off and throw it in the trunk before the meeting. The lawyers weren’t the only ones with dirty hands that day, and the initial free consultation was a success. Later, Ed did a cost vs. earnings analysis on a new muffler, and soon 356-RIDE lumbered off to the junk yard.

Recreating himself, Ed went big, really big, and began a long and profitable relationship with tour buses. The new Ed Walsh Presents ferried all sorts of people to all sorts of places like New Your City, Foxwoods Casino and other exotic destinations. You always got there, you always got a free match play ticket and dinner coupon, and if you were lucky, you got back to Ipswich.

Around this same time, Ed discovered a latent passion for Line-Dancing. He saw this as a good way to meet new people, hustle more bus trips and find a golf partner. His old I.P.D. side-kick Jim Souter showed him the moves and Ed mastered the Boot-Scoot-Boogie lickety-split, filled a couple of buses to The Big Apple and even managed to show up for work on a semi-regular basis. He also got a second wind for law enforcement; becoming a one man army determined to stamp out the plague of unregistered, uninsured vehicles endangering our town. His motto was stop em, write em, and sometimes tow em. Ed boasted that he balanced the Town’s budget with all of the fines he brought in. He drove us all crazy then as we wondered if this is what our own mid-life crises would resemble.

Ed then transitioned to domestic violence enforcement. He got trained in intervention and prevention, was a charter member of the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) and endured the many taunts from unnamed cynics who claimed that he was simply, “Compassionate as long as there was cash in it.” And in truth, there was a good deal of overtime involved, but all for a good cause. Ed helped a number of women and families through the worst times and made some lives better. He was kind to those who were abused, exploited or otherwise mistreated, and was a voice of calm reason in a windstorm of fury.

Ed was our union president, chairman of our executive committee, and a career-long contract negotiator. I cannot overstate his skill in this area. When I was a rookie in 1980, the hourly rate was $6.58 per hour. When Ed retired in 2005, this had risen to $22.98. Ed had negotiated nearly every one of our contracts during that time, often in hostile and contentious settings. He knew how to persuade, how to charm, and the importance of perseverance. When it was time to go to the mattresses, showed his bite when his bark fell on deaf ears. It was the big stage and he loved every minute of it.

When Ed retired, he was a little at sea, a little lost. He worked security at Topsfield Fair, hustled golf tournaments, and made more bus trips, but something was missing. He went to see his Primary Care Physician who prescribed that he go back to working details and road jobs. So, doctors note in hand, Ed prevailed on the powers that be for their blessing to reenlist as a Special Police Officer. Permission granted, Ed returned to the road as your man in yellow and orange; no job too big or too small, too distant or dusty. He expanded his reach and signed on as the Town’s Dock Master, charming the crowd at the wharf, making more friends, selling more bus tickets and working on his tan.

Dock-Master Ed Walsh working hard on his tan

Ed spent a lot of time with his buddies Pete Foote, Rich Lombard, Don Cole and others. I count myself lucky to have been one of them. He liked to dine around, buy a round and laugh at a good joke, or a bad one for that matter. When the cancer came, it threw him for a loop for sure, but he managed to pull himself up and keep on living life his way. Always the optimist, he gave cancer the bird, continued to buy green bananas and eat liverwurst sandwiches for another five years.

Ed Walsh imparting some pearls of wisdom

Now, every story needs a hero, and this one is no different. Eighteen years ago, Ed met Angela Garza. She was young and beautiful, and Ed was smitten. They kept company and Ed got to know her three children Nicky, Kelli and Chris. Time passed and the feelings grew deeper, the bonds stronger. In 2005, just as Ed was retiring, he began a new life when he married Angela and became a dad all over again.

The wedding was held at one of their favorite spots, Poland Springs Country Club. All his friends were there, and it seemed to us that Ed had finally met his match – in all the right ways. Angela was fun, no-nonsense, and patient when he would whine about Ipswich winters and swear he was moving to Florida. He didn’t of course; they don’t have a Market Basket or Hart House down there. And who would run the bus to Foxwoods?

As Ed’s illness progressed, Angela stood by him in spite of his occasional hissy-fits, managing to calm him down, allowing him to deal with cancer on his own terms, in his own way. Ever the negotiator, Ed bargained with fate time and again, getting the best deal he possibly could. A couple of months before he died, he and Angela sold 89 North Ridge and moved to a cozy home in Wenham where Ed could be warm and comfortable. Weaker now and a little confused at times, he liked to reminisce with friends and share a laugh. He could still roll his eyes at the outrageous or absurd, but mostly he refused to dwell on the inevitable. During one visit, he looked up from his bed and whispered to me, “I’ve got a good gig here.” I assured him that he did, but Ed being Ed, a few days later complained to another friend, “This, is bullshit!”

Angela and his family were with him in his last moments. I know that this comforted him and like all of us, am grateful for the love and care they gave to our friend. Ed was waked on Friday, January 19th. He was honored for his many years of public service by an Color Guard of Ipswich Police Officers and Firefighters in full dress uniform, as well as the rest of us with whom he shared a career and comradeship. We gathered with his family, viewed the many photos of a young and precocious child who would later become our friend and co-worker. There was laughter through some tears, reminisces colored by the realization that another of our old brigade now belonged to the ages. But as Ed liked to say, “We’re here for a good time, not for a long time.” He lived for seventy-seven years, and no matter how you measure time, I’d say Ed was a lucky man indeed.

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