NILES - Over the course of 33 year, Niles police Capt. Richard "Rick" McFalls garnered the respect of a community.
Family and friends returned the gift Sunday at the Joseph Rossi & Sons Funeral Home following his death on Wednesday at age 62 - a few days after retiring.
Though he didn't start his professional career in law enforcement, the Sharon, Pa., native and 1968 McDonald High School graduate always had his sights set on becoming an officer, according to Jim Tyree.
Tyree - a retired McDonald officer - recalled being a patrolman and riding together with McFalls. When McFalls would finish his 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at Packard Electric, Tyree would pick him up and said they would drive around on Tyree's patrol shift until 4:30 a.m. Later Tyree said McFalls would attribute his career with the police to those rides.
"He would say, 'You see what you did to me? You made me become a policeman,'" Tyree said.
McFalls graduated from the Police Academy in 1975. He began his service in law enforcement in Brookfield as a reserve and was hired in Niles as a patrolman on July 28, 1979.
Jim Campbell, retired from the Howland Police Department, recalled being McFalls' training officer.
"He was a young rookie who gave everything he had to learn his job," Campbell said, "he wanted to be the best he could be."
McFalls later served as the best man in Campbell's wedding. Campbell remembered McFalls' sense of humor. The church Campbell was married in had a stick tree decoration with little red birds on it. In the middle of the ceremony, McFalls leaned over and said to him that it must be a rich church because "they have their own cardinals."
Campbell joked that the only time McFalls didn't have patience was when they were bowling. However, bowling with McFalls was one of Niles police Chief Robert Hinton's favorite memories of the officer. He remembers winning a bronze metal with him at the state-wide police olympics.
McFalls trained Hinton and said he taught him to "meet the community."
"He started community policing," Hinton said, "before it was even a concept."
According to Hinton, McFalls made a point of knowing the people of Niles and that in return he was respected and often called for specifically by residents.
One such call, according to Niles police Capt. Ken Criswell, came 10 years ago when a man broke into a Niles home and asked specifically to talk with McFalls. Despite being off duty, McFalls went to the scene and talked with the man for several hours before finally convincing him to turn over his weapons.
Criswell said they called him the "Mayor of East End" because he was so well-known by the residents. He said McFalls was respected for his fair treatment of everyone.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy Bzinak McFalls, and his son, Jeff McFalls. According to Campbell, Kathy said if there was anything about him to know it was "how proud she was of him as a husband and father and how proud she was of the support of the community."
Additional calling hours will be held from 11 a.m. until the time of a noon funeral service today at the Joseph Rossi & Sons Funeral Home. Burial will be in Niles City Cemetery.