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Published: 9/30/2012

James Navarre: 1924-2012: Retired Toledo police captain served 33 years

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

James Navarre, a retired Toledo police captain who spent 33 years to the day with the department, died at his home in Florida on Saturday morning. He was 88.

Mr. Navarre's son, Oregon Police Chief — and retired Toledo chief — Mike Navarre said his father went to a hospital near his Fort Myers home on Monday with a bladder infection that eventually spread to his circulatory system.

“He had a great life,” Chief Navarre said. “Eighty-eight years. If most people were promised 88 good years like that, they would sign up and take it.”

Mr. Navarre was born in Toledo in 1924 to Lyndon and Catherine Navarre. He graduated in 1942 from Central Catholic High School — all five of his children would go on to graduate from the school — and then joined the Army.

After two years in the military, stationed in Key West, he became a merchant seaman on a freighter in the Great Lakes region, Chief Navarre said.

In 1948, Mr. Navarre became a member of the Toledo Police Department's seventh class, a group of 21 who, on March 18, 1949, graduated from the academy.

“He was a dedicated police officer,” said retired Deputy Chief Kenneth Rebensal, who now lives in Florida with his wife.

Mr. Rebensal and Mr. Navarre were in the same police class, and although they worked different shifts and for different captains, they still saw each other regularly.

Mr. Rebensal said he and Mr. Navarre “had kind of a competition between the two of us,” as they rose to deputy chief and captain, respectively.

While Mr. Navarre was a patrolman in the traffic bureau, he met Kathleen Joyce Marry, a civilian who worked in the traffic bureau.

The two married at Toledo's St. Charles Church on Sept. 8, 1951.

Mr. Navarre was promoted in 1959 to sergeant and worked in the crime prevention bureau. Eight years later, he became a lieutenant in the detective bureau.

Three years after the latter promotion, Mr. Navarre did something few officers are likely to have done: He testified that a man he arrested for a “cutting with intent to kill or wound” was innocent, according to a Dec. 18, 1970, Blade story.

Mr. Navarre had compelling evidence — enough, he said at the time, to convict the 22-year-old suspect — including a witness, corroboration from an anonymous witness, and a photo array and suspect line-up identification.

After more interviews with the victim and the suspect, Mr. Navarre decided he had the wrong guy and “worked as hard to prove my client innocent as he would have worked to prove him guilty,” said the suspect's attorney, Robert A. Burns.

After years as a lieutenant, Mr. Navarre was promoted to captain in 1973. He was first assigned to the Toledo Police Academy but, in 1974, was reassigned to the homicide squad, a post he held until his 1981 retirement.

Danny Navarre, another son who is a retired Toledo Police Department detective, said his father would pick up the kids in his detective's car and take them to basketball practice.

“That's when I got interested in police work,” Danny Navarre said, adding that his father would always have his police radio on to hear calls for service, often while listening to Ernie Harwell announce Detroit Tigers baseball games.

In a September, 2011, interview about Chief Navarre's retirement from the Toledo department, Mr. Navarre said he never encouraged, but never discouraged, his sons from police work.

“I probably had something to do with it,” he said.

“I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised they finished so high up on the list, but I was glad about that. I was sad that my wife had passed and wasn’t around to see him make chief.”

Mr. Navarre's wife died in 1998.

After retiring, Mr. Navarre and his wife made trips to Florida in the winter.

The couple’s stays there became more frequent over time and culminated with their decision in about 1987 to move to Florida permanently.

Chief Navarre said that, in retirement, his father was active, playing a weekly game of poker with friends, golfing, and spending time with the many Toledo police retirees who have relocated to the Sunshine State.

“He was a good friend,” Mr. Rebensal said, “… and we're going to miss him.”

Mr. Navarre is survived by his sons Mike, Danny, and Jim Navarre; daughters, Lee Ann Ford and Nancy McKelvey; 13 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

The family will receive visitors on Oct. 6, starting at 8:30 a.m., at St. John the Baptist Church, Toledo, with a memorial Mass to follow at 10.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Police Museum.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at:tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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