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Police Officers from Back in the Day

Anthony Fera, State Police:

Growing up, Anthony F. Fera used to watch firemen and police officers and think to himself, “maybe someday I’ll be in a fire or police uniform.” What he didn’t know then was that during the course of his career and life, he would serve his community through various affiliations and departments of service. After spending years in the National Guard and Army Reserve in Boston, Anthony started with the Everett Fire Reserve on December 24, 1967. During that time, he attended Bunker Hill Community College to receive his bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. Upon completion, he was appointed to the Everett Police Department in 1969. Anthony made a lateral transfer to Metropolitan PD on August 15, 1982, and then became a member of the Massachusetts State Police with the merger in 1992.

Speaking about his time as an officer, Fera remembers his days fondly. He still misses it. Helping people has always very important to him. In the job, you meet both good people and bad people, but Anthony felt there was a job to do and someone needed to do it well and correctly. He was very happy with his choices and wouldn’t have changed them. In offering advice to new or current officers today, he urges individuals to always remember veritas – truth. Beyond that, he would tell others to always to make sure to use common sense. It is very important to learn the laws and regulations, but use common sense in applying and enforcing those laws.

It shouldn’t be surprising with his very active career, but Anthony Fera stayed active after retiring at the rank of Trooper, First Class in 1995. He continued to work for many years. First, as security for Suffolk Downs and then also at Wonderland Greyhound Park. He also spent a few years working for FIMA.

His wife, Michaelina worked for Continental Airlines, so they took advantage and traveled quite a bit, especially through Germany and Europe. They both also took some extra time to get their Real Estate Licenses in Massachusetts. He and his wife currently reside in Naples, Florida, where he spends his time exercising and staying active to keep his body and mind in good health.

His family has also grown, with his step-sons James and Anthony. Anthony and his wife Cindy made Fera a grandfather with the births of Michael, Rachel, and Alex. While in Naples, Anthony became friendly with a few officers who were called to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. They got to know each other during local marches each St. Patrick’s Day. Following the 9/11 attacks, Fera, was called to work with the MVM Homeland Security. He worked in the federal buildings in Boston to help provide additional security.

After so many years of service, Anthony Fera stays humble. He puts his faith in God and reminds others to treat each other with the respect they expect back from others. That’s the best way to work with other people and he should know – he made a career of it.

Robert Rafterty, State Police

At just eighteen-years-old, Robert Rafferty, Sr. decided to become a police officer when he met his future father-in-law, Mike Powers. Mike was the first Boston Police radio dispatcher and Boston Police Department MPA President in the 1950’s. Mike, who Robert (Bob) describes as a wonderful man, had such a positive impact on Bob’s life that he decided to commit himself to a career in law enforcement.

Bob was a member of the Metropolitan State Police for 36 years. During that time he was involved with many high profile events. He was the OIC for the visit of President Ford, which meant that he, alongside 10 other officers, escorted the President to all of his meetings and speeches. He was also involved in the Pope’s visit to Boston in 1978 and planning for the tall ship events to the city. His most memorable moment though was receiving the Metropolitan Police Humanitarian of the Year award for finding a home for a family that had been living in a car on Tenean Beach in Dorchester. With the help of the Catholic Church, he was able to find them a place to live. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant in January of 1992 and still looks back on all of his time as an officer as both rewarding and satisfying.

Bob chose to stay a member of the MPA and has stayed involved over the years. He’s proud of being part of the largest police association in the state. He remembers marching arm-and-arm with other MPA members up to the State House in the 1970’s, seeking fair wages and benefits for officers. At that time, many officers had to work second jobs to support their families. With everything that police officers put on the line, fair pay was, and still is, extremely important in maintaining the safety of our officers and communities. In offering advice to a new officer, Bob encourages everyone to leave the job at work and not in the home. It is very important to separate the two.

While he himself was inspired by his father-in-law, Bob hopes that his dedication and love for his work as a police officer was the instrument in his family’s continued dedication to law enforcement as well. His impact was certainly felt. Five of his family members became police officers, two became fireman, and his daughter is a nurse. Whether it be the Police, Fire or nursing professions, his family has always taken great pride in serving and assisting others.

He’s enjoyed retirement and says that nothing would be possible without his wonderful wife, who keeps him going every day. He spends his time with his 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. It’s always been his motto that if you "haven’t got family, you haven’t got nothing." It’s pretty evident that Bob has a lot!

Ron Miner, Springfield Police

Ron Minor started his law enforcement career in 1969 with the Springfield Police Department. In 1979, he took a lateral transfer to the Registry of Motor Vehicles Law Enforcement Division. He returned to Springfield, just a short two years later. Once back in Springfield, Minor was assigned to the Police Academy. He also was an instructor at the regional academy in Agawam.
Ron’s early passion in the law enforcement and education must have had an effect those closest to him. In 1981, he married C Lee Bennett, who made the decision to take the police exam. She passed and joined Minor at the Springfield Police Department, ultimately reaching the rank of Captain before retiring in 2013. Over the years, Ron and his wife both taught at the SPD and Regional Police Academies.

Ron’s career was spent in many different towns and in many different roles. It made him a truly diverse and experienced law enforcement officer. His broad experience became a long standing joke amongst those who knew him. Some guys collect police patches, but Ron collected the entire uniform. In the early 90’s, Minor spent time with the Chicopee PD, where he was a patrol officer, Detective, and Academy instructor. He spent time serving as part-time Chief of Police in both Shutesbury and Chester. He then was asked to command the Westfield Police Auxiliary Department

Through all his years and different roles/experiences, Ron remained humble. His personal message of advice to others is to always put yourself in the person’s shoes whom you are dealing with and give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Not only is this that perspective of a great police officer, but it’s the perspective of a great educator, husband, and person.

Octavio Pragana, New Bedford Police

Octavio Pragan's commitment to his country and his community sis obvious when you at the choices he has made throughout his life. He joined the Navy as a young man, is a retired New Bedford Police Officer, and to this day, is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He dedicated his life to serving and protecting others and enjoyed doing so. As Octavio said, "There are two things I loved in life - being a sailor and being a police officer."

Octavio Pragana, better known as "Tacky" to family and friends, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on March 12, 1926. His loyalty to his country was evident at a young age, as in October of 1943, at 17 years old, Octavio joined the Navy. He served in both World War II and the Korean War. During WWII, he was a proud member of the U.S.S. Canbera, where he was First Top Loader on a 40mm. He was one of the lucky survivors of that crew when his ship was torpedoed on October 13, 1944.

Continuing his dedication to service, Octavio joined the New Bedford Police Department in December of 1959. He worked as a Patrolman, was in both Day and Night Detectives, and was assigned to Station 3 as a Motorcycle Patrolman. He worked as a Firearms Instructor before going back to the streets, where he retired as a Patrolman in 1988. During his time on the police force, Octavio joined with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and has continued to maintain his membership since 1982. He takes pride in the fact that he is able to have and maintain close friendships with both veteran Police Officers he served with and those newer to the force in the New Bedford area.

Family is very important to Tacky, as he would never hesitate to go above and beyond for those he loves. He was married to the late Dolores Pragana in April of 1952. Together, they had two children, Wayne Pragana of Freetown and Debra Kosboski of Wareham. He has three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

In 2011, Tacky was remarried to Janice Ledoux, and he gained two step children and four step-grandchildren. He is very proud of the fact that one of his granddaughters, Britany Kosboski of Wareham, chose to follow in his footsteps. She has received both her B.A. and M.S. in Criminal Justice and hopes to pursue a career in homeland security.

Tacky is an amazing man who, at the age of 86, can still be found hanging out at New Bedford Police headquarters, catching up with old and new friends, while even finding some time to work out at the station's gym.

Somehow, in addition to everything else he does, he still manages to take his Harley Davidson out on the road, every day. His dedication to serving others knows no bounds and it is clear that Octavio Pragana is a man set apart from the rest.

Louis Yianacopolus, Stoneham Police

Growing up, Louis Yianacopolus always wanted to be a police officer because he truly enjoyed helping others. After working in a factory for a few years with his mother, he finally had the opportunity to take the police exam. In 1961, he became a member of the Stoneham Police Department and retired in 1996 after 35 years of service at the rank of Patrolman. In addition to his many years of service in Stoneham, Louis served for 8 years on the National Guard.

During his years of service, Louis saw a lot of tough crime and worked on monitoring 93. One point of pride during his time as a police officer actually occurred as a stroke of luck. Louis was enjoying his lunch hour at home when he received a call just around the corner from his house. Little did Louis know, this day would result in a Letter of Commendation in regards to an operation with the NEMLEC Drug Task Force. In the spring of 1996, the NEMLEC Drug Task Force became involved in a drug investigation in conjunction with the Stoneham Police Department. Officer Yianacopolus assisted in conducting an initial inquiry and gathering information for the Task Force. Commended for his “extra effort, cooperation, and initiative, Louis played an important role in the seizure of 25 lbs of marijuana and providing probable cause to seek an arrest warrant for the male subject related to the drugs.

Alongside years of active service and a MPA membership of 35 years, Louis Yianacopolus has left another legacy on law enforcement, with 4 sons Glen, Neil, Paul, and Kevin, who have taken on various roles in the State Police and as Correctional Guards in Concord. Louis encouraged all of them to take advantage of any opportunities they had to work in civil service. His wife, Mary Yianacopolus, even served the community as a traffic director. After retiring, Louis worked in private security before truly retiring, when he got to enjoy spending time with his grandchildren and watching them during the day. Clearly, this is a family that is dedicated to helping and serving the public and much of that starts under the great leadership of Louis.

John Ross, Melrose Police

Within each generation, there are moments that can define one’s time in service. These are moments in history and time that stand out as moments that can define a career. In our recent history, one moment that fits that definition is the attack on America on September 11, 2001. Our nation watched as men and women went above and beyond their duties during a true terrorist attack. John Ross was one of those individuals who truly went beyond the call of duty.

A veteran, with years of service in the US Army, John is no stranger to exemplary service. On the day of 9/11, John had two friends on American Airlines Flight 11 and saw the tragedy unfold as those in service, from fire and police departments alike, passed on the day of the attacks in their efforts to save the lives of others. John looked at a fellow officer and said, “We need to get down there and do something.” From that point on, John served as a search and recovery working at Ground Zero for 8 months in 2001 and 2002. He did this on his days off when he could make it there, spending nights at local firehouses while he assisted in any way that he could. In 2002, he was asked to be a part of the honor guard at the at the one year anniversary. John went back to Ground Zero to pay his respect and to remember the hours of extra work and time he dedicated to supporting our country. He will return again this May as a special invitee for the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Beyond his military duties, John has been a proud MPA member since 1998. In the same year, John began his time of work with the Melrose Police Department for 15 years before he retired at the rank of Patrolman on June 17, 2013. Part of John’s dedication and service may have come from a great influence – his father, who served as a fireman in Cambridge, MA. To this day, John remains humble, explaining that what he did was just part of his job and what he was trained to do. To new officers, he imparts that there is a lot in the news that you see with attacks and bombings, but don’t go looking to be a hero. When the opportunity arises, you will step up and do what you need to do; because that is your job and that is just who you are.

Gerald Rideout, Brockton Police

Through his 32 years of active service, Gerald Rideout demonstrated bravery and heroism. He represents all that is good about an officer. He is dedicated, proud, and focused on service. Gerald’s focus on service was very broad. An honorable veteran of the Army, he became an officer of the Brockton Police Department on Christmas Day in 1966.

He has truly experienced a broad variety of departments. Within a few years, he became a member of the K-9 unit. Following that, Gerald joined the motorcycle squad. It was during his time on the Detective unit, on Tuesday, May 20, 1986, when a Brockton man was shot and killed at his own birthday party. Gerald, along with another detective, arrived at the apartment, heavily armed and protected. The gunman surrendered and was placed under arrest.

This is just one moment in Gerald’s career, and he provided many great other acts of service before retiring on September 26, 1998 as a Patrolman. He’s dedication still lives on, as he celebrates 40 years of membership in the MPA and has passed on his legacy to his son, Douglas Rideout, who is an Assistant Deputy Superintendent for the Plymouth House of Correction. Gerald is one of those individuals who understand that being a police officer is not a career, it is life. We are grateful for all of Gerald’s service and his continued dedication.

Patrick J. Higgins, Holyoke Police

As every police officer knows, the years on the force require a commitment to service. Patrick J. Higgins, of the Holyoke Police Department, is no exception. A 64-year member of the MPA, Higgins became a police officer on April 1, 1948. He regarded his role as a police officer with great importance and always sought to perform to the best of his abilities. Higgins urges every
officer to do the same.

“Remember, the citizens of your city or town have placed an enormous amount of trust in you. Do not dishonor them or yourself.”

Patrick J. Higgins has consistently demonstrated a great commitment to service. He served his country in WWII and was shipped to the Missouri Jefferson Barracks. He remembers his time there as eye-opening. “First time I had ever encountered segregation in the country was while I was in Missouri.” Higgins remembers, “I was surprised to see it because I had never seen this back in Holyoke.” He was sent overseas to Europe and fondly remembers visiting Paris with his friends and climbing the Eiffel Tower.

Over the years, Patrick became more involved in the MPA. He served as Vice President in 1983 and 1984 and as President in 1985 and 1986. He has found the MPA to be an extremely useful tool for all officers and strongly encourages Rookies to get involved. “Always be willing to learn: further your education, and listen and learn from those who served before you. The MPA’s Legal Defense Fund is a must for both new and experienced officers,” Higgins advises.

Patrick J. Higgins retired on March 31, 1987 having reached the rank of Patrolman and is still a member of the MPA. Upon retirement, Higgins says, “Start planning for your retirement right away. It’s very true “the sooner, the better” when it comes to putting money away and investing.” It seems as though Higgins has plenty to keep him occupied in his retirement. Higgins and his wife Patricia have been blessed with a large family. He has two sons, Lt. Michael J. Higgins (Holyoke Police) and Detective Captain Peter J. Higgins (State Police), two daughters, Patricia Gareau of Granby and the late Kathleen Hance of Holyoke, nine grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. One of his proudest moments was having his sons follow in his footsteps and now Higgins will have another opportunity to be proud. His youngest grandson, Patrick F. Higgins of West Springfield, is a college student studying Criminal Justice and following the footsteps of his father Michael, Uncle Peter, and his grandfather Patrick in law enforcement. He will be the third generation police officer in the Higgins family.

Patrick J. Higgins has performed his duties with a high level of service and has left a legacy through his family. It should be no surprise that one of Higgins’s favorite quotes is “God Bless America.” We’ve had the great honor to serve with him as he has committed his life to his city, state, and county.

The MPA Executive Board would like to thank Patrick and all his cohorts for their service. We appreciate their membership in this organization. To all retirees thank you for a job well done.

To quote Arthur Lamb BPD, “a cop isn’t really a professional until he retires.”

Sgt. George Souza

It seems fitting to reflect on the dedication and service of an individual who expresses such a great pride in not only his own work but pride in the work of his colleagues. Sgt. George Souza of Acushnet, MA, proudly spent a great part of his life in service. Sgt. Souza’s respect for those on the force is clearly evident in his love and collection of police patches – which includes over 500 patches from all over the United States and the world. His hobby and collection was taken a step further in the ‘90s when he designed a patch of his own.

In the shape of the state of Massachusetts and featuring the Massachusetts Police Association (MPA) logo, state seal, a lighthouse, whale, and harpooner, the patch represents and honors the Retired Police Officers of Massachusetts in a way to unite all officers of the Commonwealth. A patch that has been recognized by local, national, and religious officials (including a President and a Pope); it is a perfect example of the pride an individual has in the whole.

Sgt. George Souza’s pride had to come from somewhere and he certainly has a great deal of experience in service. During WW2, George and four of his brothers served in the Army, Navy, and Merchant Marine, earning the nickname as the “Five Fighting Souzas.” Shortly after WW2, Souza became an Asst. Scoutmaster to Troop7 in New Bedford MA. He returned to the U.S. Navy to serve in Korea in 1948. He spent time serving on both the Marion and Acushnet Police Departments, before spending 21 years on the Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU) Police Force. During all those years, he truly made his work a part of his life. His work on events, such as the Woods of Dartmouth Pop Festival, which received the attention of many after a three-day festival, was led by Souza with little-to-no incident– helped to establish his place in the community. SMU even awarded Souza with his own class ring of 1970 to show him how much they appreciated his community involvement. Even during retirement, Sgt. Souza could not stay away from the job – serving as a Deputy Sheriff for Bristol County.

In all his years, one thing was clear. The pride Souza has for the force is reciprocal. His supervisors, colleagues, and communities have spoken nothing but praise of his values and work. He was an outstanding leader and officer. Just like the patch he so beautifully created, his service and stories will continue to serve as a reminder of the honor associated with all active and retired officers.

For more information about how you can get involved, or for more details concerning the Massachusetts Police Association, please call 617-720-3477 to speak to one of our staff members.