ADRIAN - Ralph Niles, who became an Adrian police officer at age 49 after a 30-year career at Kewaunee Scientific Corp., died Thursday in the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. He was 73.
Mr. Niles was diagnosed with lymphoma eight months ago, although he continued as a bailiff with the Lenawee County sheriff's office until about two weeks before he died, according to his daughter, Barbara Bachmeier.
Mr. Niles, who lived in Adrian all his life, retired at age 49 from Kewaunee, where he had been an accounting supervisor and had been employed for 30 years. Kewaunee manufactures furniture for scientific and technical workplaces.
He had wanted to be a police officer much of his life and had volunteered his weekends with the Adrian police reserves for about 15 years. After leaving Kewaunee, he enrolled in a program for police recruits at Macomb Community College in a class of recruits who all seemed to be in their early 20s.
“They called him Grandpa,” his daughter said.
But Mr. Niles, who had run track at Adrian High School, easily passed the physical-fitness tests.
When his daughter became an officer with the Michigan State Police, he pinned her badge. Mr. Niles' interest in law enforcement led her to choose the same field, she said. He retired from the police department at 65, and the same year, became a bailiff in Adrian's circuit court.
He was the oldest of 10 children - three of whom died at birth - to Stanley and Agnes Armstrong Niles. He graduated from high school in 1947 and started work on the line at Kewaunee. For several years, he moonlighted at the Sinclair service station on Maumee Street in Adrian - a job he had started in high school.
He married the former Geneva Goodwin in 1950. They met while she was working at an Adrian movie theater.
He enjoyed woodworking and tackled projects as small as cradles to as large as a 2,500-square-foot ranch house that he built near Adrian for his daughter, Linda Niles, in 1999. “If it was made of wood, he could build it,” Mrs. Bachmeier said.
Her father, who had a woodworking shop in his barn, had built the cupboards in his house and until about two weeks ago was completing a gazebo for his yard.
When his son, Garold, was a Boy Scout, Mr. Niles was a leader for the 30 or more boys in Adrian's Troop 66. He rode motorcycles for years and belonged to the Blue Knights and Gold Wings Motorcycle Club.
Surviving are his wife, Geneva; son, Garold; daughters, Linda Niles, Nancy Crawford, and Barbara Bachmeier; brothers, Howard and Milton; sisters, Lillian Cherry, Lauretta Niles, and Marian Brisbin; nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. today in the Purse Funeral Home, Adrian.
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