Retired Fircrest police chief dies at age 81

Fircrest Police Chief John Cheesman met one of his predecessors long before becoming an officer.

Cheesman remembers former Chief Ronald Ames - who died Tuesday of natural causes at age 81 - buying him and a friend sodas at a local deli.

Ames was a patrol officer and Cheesman was about 13. The boys had just been walking by, when Ames reached out, and they sat down to chat.

“It really had a big impression on me,” Cheesman said of the chat over a soda years ago. “I know it was his philosophy that it’s not: ‘What did those kids do wrong.’ It’s: ‘Look, officers are out talking with the kids.’

“That’s what we call community policing. We’ve been doing that since Day 1, and that was his doing.”

Ames was chief from 1982 until he retired Dec. 31, 1994.

He started with the Fircrest department in 1970 as a reserve officer, became a full-time policeman in 1973 and worked as a patrolman, detective and sergeant before becoming chief.

Cheesman said the first time he rode with Ames as an officer they responded to help other officers get a suspect out of a phone booth, where the man had barricaded himself and refused to come out.

Ames ran straight at the booth and smashed in its folding door, Cheesman said.

“He pulled him out like you would push toothpaste out of a tube,” Cheesman recalled. “He turned him over to the other officers and said: ‘There you go.’”

Ames is survived by wife Helen, and children Mark, Mike and Kathy.

“He was a very compassionate, empathetic person,” Cheesman said. “I can honestly say I carry a piece of him with me every day, whatever I do.”