SOUTH BEND — He was recognizable by his bow ties and friendly smile.
But Capt. Ed Friend will likely be remembered for the thousands of lives he touched in this community during his 44-year police career, his friends said Friday.
“For years he was the face of the South Bend Police Department,” Cpl. Derek Dieter said. “What he has done with the television shows and working with kids as a role model, no one was better than Ed Friend at doing that.”
Friend, perhaps one of the most well-known and popular police officers in South Bend history, passed away peacefully at his home about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. He was 75.
“He was one in a thousand,” former officer Al DeRoo recalled. “The work this guy did for the elderly was fantastic.”
On one spectrum, Friend taught crime prevention to children through his longtime TV show “Kid’s Adventure Zone” and at Safetyville at Rum Village Park. On the other end, he was a champion for the elderly who worked tirelessly on adult protective issues, police said.
Visitation for the public will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Palmer Funeral Home’s Guisinger Chapel, 3718 S. Michigan St. A private funeral service is planned.
Friend, nicknamed “Captain Friendly,” was sworn into the department on Oct. 16, 1962, and retired Aug. 4, 2006, at the age of 70, leaving behind a legacy that likely won’t soon be forgotten.
The South Bend Hall of Fame inductee served in almost every capacity within the department during the first half of his career but transitioned into more of a community outreach role during the latter part — one in which DeRoo said he excelled at.
Friend also hosted three TV shows for several years, was in charge of Crime Stoppers and wrote hundreds of columns for The Tribune on various public safety issues.
Most of all, though, he loved interacting with the community.
“I don’t think I could sleep soundly at night if I couldn’t look back on the day and not be able to recall at least one person I had helped,” he told The Tribune in a 2006 interview.
He also loved serving the city of South Bend.
“When it comes down to it, I’m just a hometown hillbilly,” the Riley High School and Indiana University graduate said when he retired six years ago. “I’ve always loved this place and the people here.”
Among his jobs, Friend was involved in traffic, training, the detective bureau, internal affairs, public relations, juvenile aid and emergency management liaison. His most recent responsibility was as the liaison for geriatrics and mental health.
“He did jobs that policeman really don’t want to get into,” Dieter said. “He was very passionate working with the elderly.
“He taught and mentored. He did the other side of police work, and was able to influence a lot of people. Some people can talk to the public and some people can’t. It’s not because your a policeman. Some people are at ease with it.”
Cpl. Ron Glon said Friend was always willing to help.
“He was a fabulous guy that would do anything for me whether it was a commercial or a speech or a charity,” he said. “He would be the guy you would want to talk to.”
In a time when many police officers kept a “tough guy” attitude with the public, Dieter said Friend was the opposite, as he participated in funny skits with youth, wore goofy hats and always had an upbeat attitude.
“He’s gong to be sorely missed,” Glon said. “He was always upbeat no matter how he felt — about his career and the memories. Everywhere he went he knew someone, even in other counties. I wish I had that many friends.”
Friend also served as an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech and was a responsible for the development of a stress management program for public safety personnel, which he presented to groups throughout the United States and Canada.
After the Army, Friend told The Tribune he could have gone back to helicopter school or become a candidate for the FBI, but he chose to stay in his hometown, especially after meeting his future wife, Jane.
“I was sworn in on Oct. 16, 1962 — not 1862 like a lot of people think — and then Jane and I got married on Nov. 13,” he said in the 2006 interview. “The wedding was at 10:30 a.m. and I was back to work at 2 p.m.”
He never let up for 44 years.
“Police work was his life,” Dieter said.
Visitation for the public will be Sunday from 2 pm to 8 pm at Palmer Funeral Home - Guisinger Chapel, 3718 S. Michigan St., South Bend.