'A friend to everybody'
For more than 30 years, Chuck Boman served the communities of Lake Oswego, West Linn, Oregon City and Milwaukie as chaplain of their respective police departments, as well as the Lake Oswego Fire Department.
Boman died July 31 after a battle with cancer. He retired from his duties as chaplain two years ago, but his legacy of peace and friendship is one that will remain in the hearts and minds of area police officers and firefighters for decades to come.
Boman began his service as a first responder chaplain in 1980. At the time he was working as a pastor in Corbett, and after helping the local fire chief deal with the grief of losing his young son in a drowning accident, Boman found his passion for counseling police and fire officials through tough situations.
A few years later he found himself in Lake Oswego, where he was pastor of Lake Grove Christian Church. He began serving as chaplain for local police and fire and quickly became a shoulder for first responders to lean on when the job became too much to handle.
"When I started here 20 years ago, Chuck was our chaplain, and he just endeared himself to our whole department," said LOPD Chief Dale Jorgensen. "He would come in two or three times per week to just make a connection with us and be of help wherever we needed him."
Jorgensen recalls Boman being a calming presence within the department. He'd often come in, sit down and simply begin making conversation with whomever was around to talk to. He was known for being an incredibly humorous man, one who could make even those with the most serious demeanor chuckle out of the side of their mouth.
According to LOPD Lieutenant Darryl Wrisley, Boman would often tell stories from his past, and those around him would take a moment to stop what they were doing and listen because more often than not it was either hilarious or had a moral he was trying to convey.
"He was always looking out for us and making sure we were doing okay," Wrisley said. "Even though he was going through tough times, you'd never know it. You'd have to ask him, and if you asked he'd tell you, but he'd never bring it up. It was never about him, he was always there for us."
Much of Boman's work centered around helping officers and firefighters work through their thoughts and feelings after a tough call or when they'd seen something particularly disturbing. He also provided solace to those who dealt with suicide calls, which can be especially hard on officers from a community policing aspect.
"Sometimes it's difficult to talk to another officer about things, but he made you feel at ease. You could have been on a really tough call, come back and talk to him about work, family situations, a lot of stuff," Wrisley said. "He would even call you at home to make sure you were doing OK. Having someone there who had his ability to make you feel at ease was awesome."
"It was comforting for a lot of our citizens and community members that when we had to deliver that tough news, we brought some resources for them," Jorgensen added.
Boman built strong relationships with many of the men and women whom he served with, and oftentimes those connections overlapped into their personal lives. On multiple occasions, Boman was asked to perform wedding ceremonies for officers who worked in the departments he served. On the flip side, it was Boman who had the task and honor of performing burial services for former LO police chief Dan Duncan, who died abruptly of a heart attack in 2010, just a week before his retirement party.
For former LO police chief and current Fire Chief Don Johnson, having Boman around was like a breath of fresh air. It changed the demeanor of their workplace and made it brighter. Although he was a pastor, if you didn't want to talk about the Gospel, Boman wouldn't press you. His work with local first responders was led by their willingness to talk and it was always about what they wanted to talk about, according to Johnson.
"Chuck changed everything when he walked into the department. Somehow we got more kind, somehow we got more welcoming, somehow he made us better people, just by his sheer ministry of presence," Johnson said. "He was a very good guy, and he was a funny guy. You wouldn't have known he was a minister; you wouldn't have known that he was any more than a friend to everybody."
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