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Ex-police chief in Maumee touched lives



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Robert Bunce, 67, whose 37-year law-enforcement career in Maumee included 13 1/2 years as police chief, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He retired March 31, 2001, as chief of police, a post to which he was appointed in November, 1987. Until about three months ago, he was a part-time bailiff in Maumee Municipal Court.

Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener said his favorite memory of Chief Bunce was not of a tough-nosed crime fighter, but of the man who presided at Safety City and DARE graduations.

"He loved entertaining the kids," Mr. Wagener said. "He loved showing the kids that police were not only someone who could be symbols of authority, but friends and someone they could come to when they had trouble. He always showed the human side of being a police chief. He had a wild sense of humor that some of us lucky ones got to see."

Mr. Bunce's work with young people was part of his legacy, said Maumee police Chief Robert Zink, who succeeded Mr. Bunce.

"He really thought that [youth are] the key to maintaining the type of community Maumee is," Chief Zink said. "You have to devote the time and energy into the youth of the community. It makes for good citizens, and good citizens make for a good community."

He also was a leader in bringing computer technology to the police force, Chief Zink said.

As a young man, Mr. Bunce was curious whenever he heard a siren or saw a police car go by. When he said he wished he could be a police officer, his late wife, Diane, urged him to put in an application.

Even as he rose through the ranks, "he was just a regular guy," his son, Rob, said. "He was well loved by gobs and gobs of people all over, but he was never full of himself.

"He loved being able to help people. He loved still wanting to know what was going on. He really loved being a cop."

Mr. Bunce could be a disciplinarian with his officers, but he showed empathy too, Mr. Wagener said.

"He didn't have a huge ego, so I don't think he even realized the lives he touched," Mr. Wagener said.

Mr. Bunce's strong faith in God helped him cope with the tragedy he encountered on the job - injury, abuse, murder.

"Basically his philosophy was do right by others, and they'll do right by you," his son said. "He tried to treat people fairly. It was only if you crossed him there was a problem."

"It's been fun," Chief Bunce said in 2000 as he summed up his career. "You know, you're in the middle of the action, but at the same time, you can express your humanity," he said. "You end up helping people, holding someone's bloody head, being there at a widow's home to offer comfort.

"Plus," he said, after a brief pause, "it's always fun putting the bad guys in jail."

Mr. Bunce was born at John and Jackson streets in Maumee. His father died when he was 11. His mother remarried, and the family moved across the river. He was a 1959 graduate of Perrysburg High School.

He was a tool and die worker before joining the police force.

In retirement, he and his wife of 37 years, Shelley, took a cross-country motor trip along historic U.S. 66. He liked to spend time at Coldwater Lake, Mich., fishing and talking with his neighbors there, his son said.

His first wife, Diane, preceded him in death.

Surviving are his wife, Shelley Bunce, whom he married March 20, 1971; son, Robert Bunce, Jr.; daughter, Wendy Babione; sisters, Mary Lou Collins, Rita Klar, Fran Weis, Pat Weis, Mary Worchuck, Judy Williams, and Theresa Babcock; six grandchildren, and three great-granddaughters.

The body will be in the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, Maumee, after 3 p.m. Monday. A funeral service will be at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the funeral home, followed by a religious service at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Resurrection Lutheran Church, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the church.

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