WALLINGFORD — It was about 1 a.m. at the Police Department dispatch center some three years ago and Jennifer Nastri was feeling impish.
Her boss, Capt. Richard Homestead, announced to the officers and dispatchers arrayed around the room that he was about to go on break, and did anybody want anything from Dunkin’?
“I want a goldfish,” Nastri said.
Some nights, midnight shift is a barrage of calls for service that police and dispatchers scramble to keep up with.
This was not one of those nights.
“OK, Nastri wants a goldfish,” Homestead replied. “Does anybody else need anything?”
About 20 minutes later, Homestead pulled out of his Dunkin’ bag two small goldfish swimming in plastic bags. He had stopped at Walmart — “the one place where you can get absolutely everything at 1 o’clock in the morning,” he exclaimed — and fetched two carassius auratus with the help of a very surprised store clerk.
Nastri named them Sushi and Wally and took them home.
“Wally didn’t make it, but Sushi lasted awhile,“ Homestead recalled.
This kind of low-key, amiable fun is one of the reasons Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., Police Chief William Wright and about 50 firefighters, police and town workers gathered in the training classroom at the police station on Friday to honor and say goodbye to the man they nicknamed “Homie.”
Homestead’s last day at work was Friday. He is retiring after 24 years to become a sergeant with the Central Connecticut State University Campus Police, he said.
“I just felt it was time,” Homestead, 54, said.
Homestead’s sometimes paternal, sometimes fun but always businesslike approach to the job, his innate steadiness, optimism and simple desire to be of service to others made the party almost mandatory, said Wright, who encouraged Homestead to use his personality to build camaraderie in the department.
“He is an absolutely stellar person, family man and co-worker,” Wright said, “diligent in everything he did.”
Hired in Wallingford in 1997, Homestead served as a patrolman, sergeant, detective sergeant, lieutenant and finally captain in 2017. Working as an in-house training instructor, he taught firearms, use of force and was a member of the department’s Emergency Services Unit and commanded the Emergency Response Team. Homestead also served in the US Army Reserves for 23 years with three active-duty deployments, Wright said.
“He has an innate way of seeing through complex problems that involve people,” Wright said. “His first thought was always, do no harm. It was always, ‘Let’s see what we can do to not deploy any tactical [force].”
His kindness was apparent to Officer JM D’Addio when D’Addio was transferred from the community policing unit to become a training officer, department quartermaster and building maintenance supervisor in October 2016.
“You have to deal with all of these vendors and track everybody’s training and recertifications,” D’Addio said. “I was overwhelmed with all of these new jobs.”
D’Addio came to work one day to find that Homestead had taken over all dispatch center matters, a huge load off of D’Addio and markedly different from what most other supervisors at Homestead’s level would typically do.
“That’s when I knew he would always look out for me and be someone I could always look to and trust,” D’Addio said.
Homestead will miss Wallingford, he said.
“What has made this career rewarding is the people that I have worked for, the community, but especially the people I have worked with.”