Updated 05/08/2012 09:29 PM
Iconic police officer dies at 83
The man whose image is considered, by many, to be part of American iconography, has died. While the name Richard Clemens probably doesn't ring a bell, chances are you've seen his face in police stations across the nation. With more, here's our Brandon Walker.
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STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- Most likely, Richard Clemens didn't think, some 50 years later, he'd be asked to recount a phone conversation.
The year was 1958. The place, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Clemens, then 29, working as a Massachusetts State Police officer, asked to pose in uniform for a portrait, called “The Runaway,” painted by Norman Rockwell.
"The original posing we did for ‘The Runaway’ was done at the Howard Johnson on the Pittsfield Lenox Road," Clemens said, in an interview conducted by the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2004.
Its name highlights its message. A portrait of a cop helping a boy who had run away from home, used on the cover of the September 20th edition of the Saturday Evening Post.
Clemens died Sunday at 83. Up until his death, he lived in Clifton Park.
At the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, photos used by Norman Rockwell to paint ‘The Runaway’ are kept in archive. Rockwell used real people for most, if not all, of his work.
"It wasn't unusual for him to use several different models," said Venus Van Ness, an archivist at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
As he did for the server behind the counter. Though both Clemens and Ed Locke, cast as the runaway boy, were handpicked by Rockwell from the get go.
"Periodically, Mr. Rockwell would come to our grade school during lunch and he would come with the principal," recounted Locke in a 2004 interview conducted by the Rockwell Museum.
"I think Rockwell looked, he felt that he was the perfect part for it with this idea for the cop," said Jeremy Clowe, media services manager, Norman Rockwell Museum.
Clowe sat down with Richard Clemens, and the boy, Ed Locke, back in 2004 for an interview.
"Dick Clemens was humbled by the fact that his service as a police officer was actually represented in this iconic image that we shared through police stations, military offices throughout the world," Clowe said.
Perhaps that's how this piece rings a bell.
Becoming, over time, as Richard Clemens put it, an illustration of what it means to protect and serve.
"I think law enforcement officers throughout the country and state federal county level all appreciate that painting because they think it portrays them, not so much as they see them on television but the way we are in real life. Yes we are there to help people," Clemens said.
In imagery, Richard Clemens, the man who shows us all how that can be done.
"I was privileged to be that officer," Clemens said.