By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Before the newly-sworn Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal took his oath and received his badge, he had a talk with Edward R. Duncan, the longtime Martinez resident whose law enforcement career brought him to Richmond where Sappal also had been employed.
“He was there (in Richmond) when I got hired in 1997. I didn’t realize he had lived in Martinez 46 years,” Sappal said. “I bumped into him, and he talked to me about the community and its police department. He said it was a tight-knit, engaged community, and that people take a lot of pride being from Martinez.”
Duncan, 71, died Sept. 9, three days after he joined Sappal and other members of Martinez Police Department in the annual flag ceremony that honors the late Sgt. Paul Starzyk, killed in action in 2008.
A native of Queens, New York, Duncan graduated in 1962 from East Rockaway High School in East Rockaway, New York.
He joined the U.S. Army shortly afterwards and became a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division and Military Police, called the “Screaming Eagles, according to his obituary.
After his discharge, he married his high school sweetheart, Genevieve, Sept. 28, 1968, and they moved to California. He joined the Richmond Police Department two months after the wedding, and shortly afterwards, he and Genevieve moved to Martinez.
While at Richmond Police Department, Duncan earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Sacramento State University, as well as a California lifetime teaching credential, after which he worked toward a master’s degree in public administration. He graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and also earned his Secret Service certification.
Richmond Police was more than a job assignment. It became Duncan’s career. He moved up the ranks through sergeant, lieutenant and captain, working patrol administration, K-9, auto theft, homicide, vice and narcotics.
He was commander in chief with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and hostage negotiations. Eventually he was chosen assistant and interim chief of Richmond Police Department, and later served in that position in Martinez Police Department as well.
After retiring as Richmond’s police chief after a career during which he earned multiple decorations, he became the security director for both Stoneridge and Sunvalley malls.
He was a member of Kiwanis International. He enjoyed traveling with his family, watching sports and taking pictures, and he maintained his interest in police activities. Many who knew him mentioned his devotion to his dogs, Max, Howie and Rusty.
Duncan is survived by his widow, Genevieve; his sons Scott and Scott’s wife, Meilin, and Keith and his wife, Alia, as well as daughter-in-law Angela; his grandchildren Tiana, Alyssa, Dylan, Kiri and Brett, and nieces Veronica and Samira, his obituaray said. Other survivors live in New York and other East Coast cities. He was preceded in death by one son, Kevin, and his brother, James, and sister, Lillian.
Duncan’s service was Sept. 15 in Martinez at Creekside Church, and he was buried in Oakmont Memorial Park, Lafayette. His family has asked that remembrances be made through contributions to Donate Life or to other charities.
A longtime family friend who grew up with Duncan’s oldest son, Martinez Police Detective Ty Wah, remembers Duncan as a mentor and father-figure.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” Wah said. “Ed and Genevieve took me in like an adopted fourth son.”
The number one word Wah used to describe Duncan: mentor.
He said Duncan was a strong mentor of people, both inside and outside law enforcement. “He had this way of mentoring people. It was in his nature to mentor people,” he said. That guidance encouraged Wah later on to seek police work as a career.
After Duncan’s retirement as Richmond’s police chief, he took charge of 45 people as the leader of the Stoneridge Mall security force in Pleasanton, Wah said.
One day, Wah got a call. Duncan asked if he would give him a hand at the mall and help out during the six months leading into the busy Christmas season. That was before Wah considered following his mentor’s footsteps into law enforcement, but he agreed to help.
That changed their relationship. “He wasn’t a family friend, He became my boss,” Wah said. And that’s when Wah saw how Duncan mentored his officers, including himself, as well as those from Richmond, San Leandro, Pleasanton and other areas.
He continued the practice when he transferred to the Sunvalley Mall in Pleasant Hill.
But Duncan didn’t just lead people to become police officers.
“He helped Scott become a firefighter,” Wah said. And Scott wasn’t the only one Duncan led to that career choice, he said. “He saw the best in people. He pushed us to try to achieve our goals.”
Wah also remembered Duncan as a real sports fan, and he frequently would join those at Duncan’s house to watch football or baseball on television.
Duncan liked to travel, and Wah said Duncan and Genevieve took their fifth-wheel trailer on a trip around the United States. “They bebopped around to sporting arenas,” Wah said.
If Duncan was passionate about sports, he was also passionate about photography, and would aim his lens toward animals and subjects of nature.
“Several of us sat down and went through 15 to 20 tubs of photos he had taken through the years,” Wah said. “There were barns, beautiful trees with leaves turning colors, wildlife, the moon. He was a shutterbug.”