Blawnox police Chief George Bucha signed off for the final time with his 2501 code on July 31.
But the lifelong borough resident guaranteed he’ll still be a familiar sight in the community.
“I consider everyone in town family,” said Bucha, 81. “That’s what’s nice about a small town. You get to know the people and even the cars.”
Celebrating with his “extended family” over cake at the municipal office, Bucha reminisced about the five decades he served the borough.
Born at 510 Blaw Ave., Bucha recalled his younger days with pride.
At 28, he saw an ad to become a patrolman, and with his mother’s encouragement, he took the civil service exam and placed in the top three among candidates.
He attended the Police Academy in 1977 and finished first in his class, Bucha said.
As part of his job to serve and protect, Bucha drew his gun a few times – but never fired it.
Once a man attacked the chief with a hatchet, but Bucha was able to wrestle it away and never grabbed for his gun, he said.
Another key moment, he said, was chasing down a bank robber hiding out in Aspinwall. That earned him an award from Amen Corner for his dogged pursuit.
Bucha said he was driven by the concern that a resident would be attacked by the robber.
“I had the satisfaction of helping. I was in a position to help,” he said.
In the end, Bucha’s guiding principles were those at the core of being a good officer – to serve and protect.
Promoted to chief on June 1, 1977, he took on an added duty of training fellow officers.
”I see something nice about everyone. I think my guys picked up on that,” he said.
As head of a department with as few as three officers, Bucha worked shifts alone like other patrol officers.
“There’s nothing typical about being a patrolman,” he said.
As every police officer knows, problems can arise at any time, he said.
The retiring chief said when bad times came, he wasn’t afraid as much as thinking about how to best handle the situation. Once, he was first on the scene of a baby who had quit breathing. He concentrated on giving CPR and the child lived.
“Every time I went out the door, I blessed myself,” Bucha said.
He felt it was his duty to protect residents and their property, but also every person who passed through Blawnox.
Bucha credits the community for supporting his efforts.
“Our town has great people. That makes our community the best,” he said.
Many took part in a larger send-off for Bucha on Aug. 17 at the Comfort Inn in O’Hara. Bucha soaked in the memories and took a chance to thank people for allowing him 53 years of service.
With the future of the police department passed on to new chief, Pat Goodman, Bucha already has plans for his retirement.
He and wife Patty enjoy an occasional dinner out, he said, and he golfs when he gets the chance.
His goal right now is to organize Patty’s side of the garage so she can fit her car inside.
There’s a trip to Ireland, too.
His immediate plans, however, are simple. He is genuinely happy to remain part of the community.
“I’m a stay at home type of guy,” he said.