They came from near and far to honor a man who served for nearly a quarter century as police chief in White Salmon.
Ned Kindler's public retirement party turned into an entertaining evening, with reflections, laughter, and sentiment.
The event was held at the Park Center on Saturday night, and the auditorium was filled with those who wanted to wish all the best to Kindler -- who hung up his gun and badge for the final time on May 28.
"I saw a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a number of years," Kindler said after the event. "I even had an aunt from Ohio there; I hadn't seen her in 35 years."
The evening began with a welcome from Ned's wife Vickie, and continued with a slide show marking highlights of Ned's life and career. Former Mayor Roger Holen narrated the lively slide presentation.
Many of Kindler's law enforcement buddies were on hand, including some who have known him since he began his career back in 1977. They confessed to being responsible for long-ago practical jokes, and teased Kindler about a variety of amusing incidents during his long years of service.
Washington State Trooper Bill Clack recalled the day that Kindler was so focused on a particular case that he completely lost track of time. When the noon fire whistle went off, Kindler believed it was a fire alarm, and rushed to stop traffic to make way for the fire trucks that never came. Clack joked that Kindler covered his error by explaining to the backed-up motorists that it was just a test, then thanked them for their cooperation.
Clack also delighted in telling everyone that in 1995, Kindler's efforts to barbecue a pig resulted in the fire department being called out.
Kindler was further teased about the time that the White Salmon Police Department was "famed" for being the only police department in the country equipped exclusively with a fleet of small, square-bodied Toyota Camrys.
Later, he explained that he still stands by those cars.
"Those were some of the best police cars we had as far as maintenance," Kindler said. "We hardly ever had down time with them."
Tales of the "old days" and the quirks of some of the equipment they used over the years sparked a lot of laughs. One peculiarity was the communications system for the patrol cars of the 1980s. White Salmon's police cars back then were equipped with dash-mounted telephones, and when an officer left the car, he would push a button that would cause the car's horn to honk if the phone rang so the officer would know he had a call. Trouble was, when you got back in the car, you also needed to reset the device.
"If you forgot to push the button, the horn would blow," Kindler recalled.
That unique feature got Kindler in trouble one day, as he stopped his car to allow an elderly woman carrying groceries to cross in front of him. He had forgotten to turn off the car horn, and a call came in just as the woman was passing in front of his hood with her bag of groceries. The horn blared, and the groceries went flying.
"I felt so bad for that lady," recalled Kindler. "I got out of the car and helped pick up her groceries, and couldn't apologize enough."
In another highlight of the evening's tributes, Sgt. Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department took the stage to read his poem, "Ode to Ned," which hit on many of the lighter highlights of Kindler's career.
Here's a sampling of Brending's entertaining prose:
"History would indicate
Ned was chosen to lead
Just listen to his adventures
It was his destiny to succeed.
For instance the time of a bluff fire
The new police car Ned did take
When the bomber dropped the retardant
What a big mess it did make.
Then of course when the noon whistle blew
Ned raced off to assist
He stopped all traffic on Estes
The fact there was no fire is all he did miss.
Even as chief
Ned continued his ways
Of teaching by example
To the last of his working days.
Ammo management comes to mind
And is what was being taught
When he slew the deer on 14
And earned the nickname `Never Misses A Shot.'
Other agencies know Ned
For a reason or two
Like when DNR responded to a fire call
When it was only Ned cooking barbecue."
Often during the evening, Kindler could be seen good-naturedly shaking his head over some of the stories he was hearing.
Kindler was quick to point out that some of the tales got a little taller in the retelling.
"Stories get a little exaggerated," he laughed. "If anyone wants to hear the true full story, call me."
The evening had its somber moments as well, as Kindler recalled fellow law enforcement officers who had passed away during his time as chief.
During a time for sharing stories, many individuals stepped forward with expressions of thanks for Kindler's years of dedicated work, including judges, school officials, family members, city staff, mayors and former mayors, and a lot of friends.
Also attending was former White Salmon Mayor Cecil Jaksha, who made a decision back in 1980 to hire Kindler as the city's police chief. In a statement read at the gathering, Jaksha pointed out that he believed it was important for qualified personnel who work for the city to have the chance to move up, and for the police force to promote from within. Jaksha then thanked Kindler for being his chief of police.
On Monday, an emotional Kindler said he was extremely grateful for the outpouring of support and friendship.
"I was overwhelmed," Kindler said. "It was just, wow. I can't thank the community enough for the years they let me serve them. It's been a privilege. I want to offer a big thank you to the community for the support and caring. That will stick with me forever."