Calif. town's longest-serving cop dies day before his proclamation
Dennis Neverve, Palo Alto's longest-serving police officer, died of a heart attack at age 70
By Jason Green
Palo Alto Daily News
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Dennis Neverve, Palo Alto's longest-serving police officer, died of an apparent heart attack Sunday night, one day before he was set to receive a proclamation from the city council. He was 70.
Palo Alto police Chief Dennis Burns said the force was reeling Monday from Neverve's death.
"I think a lot of people are shocked by the timing," said Burns, his voice cracking slightly in a telephone interview. "How ironic — it's the day before he's supposed to get this recognition."
The council issued the proclamation to thank Neverve for his 46 years of service — 30 as a full-time police officer and 16 as a reservist. He retired from the latter position on Valentine's Day. Over the course of his career, he received more than 100 commendations, including a notice of merit for talking an armed suspect out of his weapon and a medal of valor for rescuing several teenagers from a fire in the city's foothills.
Barbara Stouffer, Neverve's longtime girlfriend, said Neverve was in good spirits when he came over for dinner Sunday.
He was looking forward to the ceremony Monday and traveling to Bakersfield later this week to race his dragster.
"He didn't seem stressed out or upset about anything," Stouffer said. "It was just a normal, relaxing Sunday night."
After a meal of meatloaf, potatoes and salad, Neverve settled into his favorite chair and closed his eyes. That was his routine, Stouffer said. But when she went to wake him for "60 Minutes," she realized he wasn't breathing.
"I shook him — 'Dennis! Dennis!'" she said. "There was no response."
Stouffer's grandson started chest compressions, while the Palo Alto Fire Department raced to the scene. Neverve was taken to Stanford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"They just were not able to get his heart going again," Stouffer said. "They said he had a massive heart attack."
Friends and family remembered Neverve as an old-school cop who was well-liked and respected.
"Within the community, I think a lot of people knew him because he was just a hardworking guy who came to work every day, who enjoyed what he was doing and tried to make things better for the people he came in contact with," said Burns, who credits Neverve with giving him the confidence he needed to succeed at the firing range and graduate from the police academy in 1982.
Neverve's older brother, Adrian Neverve, said the two rarely got together but spoke regularly. Their last telephone conversation was about a story that recently appeared in The Daily News about Dennis' retirement from the reserves.
"As soon as I read that, I called him up and the first thing out of his mouth was, 'Well, I'm a civilian now,'" Adrian, 73, said with a laugh. "I said, 'OK, yeah, now you can join the ranks of the rest of us.'"
Adrian said his brother wasn't a fan of newfangled technology, preferring a landline to a cellphone.
"He also didn't know much about computers," Adrian said. "He could care less. I know when he was on patrol, he was fighting those computers. Most of the stuff he did, he wrote out longhand. He was just from the old school and he enjoyed doing things the way he did."
True to form, Neverve carried a Colt Python .357 Magnum his entire career, saying in an interview that he was willing to forgo the firepower of a semiautomatic for the reliability of a revolver.
Though shaken by Neverve's death, the police department pushed forward with the ceremony Monday. Nearly 100 of his former colleagues looked on while Mayor Nancy Shepherd presented the proclamation to Stouffer. Everyone then stood for a moment of silence.
"He was truly the cop's cop," said Redwood City resident Robert Smith, who served with Neverve for 20 years. "He was a gentleman, didn't get out of control and respected every person regardless of race, color or creed. He was just basically a really nice guy to work with."
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