NEW CASTLE — He was remembered for his sense of humor, his compassion, his patience, his honor and his integrity.
The auditorium at Coal Ridge High School was filled Saturday afternoon with law enforcement, first responders and citizens from around the valley to say goodbye to New Castle Police Chief Chris Sadler — Call sign #601.
Sadler died unexpectedly on March 15 at Grand River Hospital in Rifle. He was 52.
Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and first responders from the surrounding areas and a color guard made up of the New Castle Police Department, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Grand Junction Police Departments led a motorcade through New Castle, ending up at Coal Ridge High School, where they performed a traditional law enforcement ceremony that included the color and honor guards, a bagpiper and a final radio call.
Mayor Frank Breslin reflected on Sadler’s philosophy during his tenure with the New Castle Police Department which began with his hiring as a reserve officer in 1995. Later, he became a patrol officer and served the last 12 years as the department’s chief.
“Chris Sadler wanted this department to be a department of fairness and compassion,” Breslin said. “The real tragedy here will be if we fail to preserve that.”
Breslin recalled several stories about Sadler, including one in which he “moonwalked” past a town employee’s desk one time, just to make her laugh.
Breslin then proceeded to give a short demonstration on how to moonwalk and suggested the rest of “New Castle’s finest” learn to do the same, bringing a laugh to the crowd.
Another time, Sadler was helping people cross the street at a Thursday night Farmer’s Market when a car came sailing through the crosswalk and almost hit a woman, Breslin said.
“He wrote the car’s license plate number on his hand, his ‘palm pilot’ since we all know he hates computers, and sent an officer to get the car,” Breslin said with a smile.
Tony Pagni, Sadler’s longtime friend and now the interim chief, was not as well composed.
“I met Chris in 1984 when we worked for the [Aspen Highlands] skiing company,” Pagni said, his voice breaking. “I had no idea how many times my life would cross with his. In 1995, I decided to go to the police academy ... and guess who I saw?”
Sadler went to work for New Castle and Pagni for Silt, but Pagni said his friend had taught him to always look for the good in people, no matter how violent the crime. And how to be patient.
“In the departure of my friend, I will attempt to look for the good and to temper my patience,” he said.
Sadler’s brother, Les, spoke briefly, but was overcome with emotion.
“This will probably be the toughest thing I ever do,” he said, after a long moment of silence. “I’ve got to be honest, Tony. I thought I was going to be as strong as you, but I’m not.”
Pastor Dave York married Sadler and his wife, Marina, nearly 25 years ago.
“Chris Sadler had a peaceful demeanor,” York recalled. “He always listened before he spoke. Then he would hear what you were saying. People trusted Chris. He had such a good heart. He was always at town events and he made it his mission to help and he gave his all.”
A short slide show of Sadler as a kid and throughout moments of his life played on a screen while the song “In My Life” by the Beatles played in the background.
After the presentation of the flag to Marina Sadler, the bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.”
Then, in the silence of the room, came the crackle of a dispatch call.
“601 ... dispatch ... 601 ... dispatch ... 601 ... dispatch ...,” a dispatcher’s voice called repeatedly, then said, “601 is out of service. Rest in peace, sir. We’ll take it from here.”
Sadler leaves behind his wife, Marina; a son and daughter-in-law, Jake and Reba Sadler; his mother, Lorraine Sadler; cousin Dale Pritchett and family; stepmother and stepbrother, Jerre and Biven Sadler of Dallas, Texas; and brother, Les Sadler.
The Chris Sadler Memorial Trust Fund has been set up at the New Castle Alpine Bank. People wishing to donate should contact Alpine Bank directly.
“Chris Sadler had a peaceful demeanor. He always listened before he spoke. Then he would hear what you were saying. People trusted Chris. He had such a good heart. He was always at town events and he made it his mission to help and he gave his all.”
Pastor Dave York