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Borough bids retiring chief farewell

| Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005

When Thomas "Tuck" Gilles was hired as Rosslyn Farms' only police officer in 1960, he was told he had to use his own car, and for a "police radio," he was pointed toward the nearest pay phone and given a roll of dimes.

"At the time, I thought it was a good opportunity," Gilles said of his hiring 45 years ago. "I was just hired to do some patrolling around Halloween. I'm still waiting for them to tell me I'm finished."

The community of 500 is hosting a farewell party for Gilles, 68, of Crafton, who is retiring as chief. His last day was Friday.

The borough began planning for its own police department in 1959 when it became dissatisfied with the service it was contracting for with a neighboring community. Gilles was hired full time as the borough's police chief and only officer.

For two years, he was required to use his 1955 Plymouth for all police duties.

It wasn't until a traffic stop in 1961 where a suspected child abductor shot at Gilles, that borough officials decided it was time to purchase a police vehicle--with a radio.

"I just told them I couldn't work like that anymore," Gilles said.

Gilles worked alone for 12 years, on call 24 hours a day and frequently putting in 80-hour weeks.

A full-time officer was added to the department in 1972, and he quit six years later. Gilles then hired Lawrence Fischio as his assistant.

Fischio was sworn in as chief Jan. 10.

The department today consists of Fischio, a full-time officer and four part-time officers.

Mayor James Stover said the borough decided to keep its police force rather than contracting with another department "because of the job he's done."

"What we were getting from him was worth the money," Stover said.

Carnegie police Chief Jeff Harbin called Gilles "a very good colleague" who will be missed by surrounding communities.

A 1954 graduate of the former Crafton High School, Gilles served in the U.S. Army as a member of the Fort Knox Honor Guard, often performing for presidential ceremonies and honors for visiting dignitaries.

Prior to taking over the police duties in Rosslyn Farms, he worked part time for the Crafton and Ingram police departments.

The farewell party for Gilles begins at 3 p.m. in the Rosslyn Farms Community Center.

"It was a great run. It was a great job, a good living, and the community was a good place to live and work," Gilles said.

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