Trooper immortalized in Rockwell print dies

By Renee Nadeau Algarin
The Boston Herald

A retired Massachusetts state trooper, immortalized in a famous Norman Rockwell portrait as the wise and caring cop giving good advice to a little boy, died in his home state of New York over the weekend, state police said.

Staff Sgt. Richard J. Clemens Jr., who posed in 1958 for Rockwell's famed painting, "The Runaway," died Sunday at age 84.

"I think he probably in more ways than one was really a great representative, certainly for the Massachusetts state police, but also for police all over," said Ed Locke, who posed as the 8-year-old runaway in the Rockwell painting. "He was a good cop and an even better man."

Clemens, a member of the 37th Recruit Training Troop, served with the state police from 1953 to 1975.

"The painting of a trooper bending over in counsel to a young boy intent on leaving home captures — much more than any of the images of shootouts and car chases favored by popular culture — the highest ideal of police work: helping someone in need at a vulnerable moment," Col. Marian McGovern said.

Clemens was 29 when he posed for his famous neighbor's brush. He later also posed for a 1961 state police Christmas card.

"What struck me was how humble he was, how kind a man he was. He has such authority in that painting. He was emblematic of law enforcement everywhere," said Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge where Clemens often spoke about the painting, most recently earlier this year.

"He was a wonderful man, an honest man," Locke said, recalling that Clemens let him play with his cruiser's siren on their first meeting in 1958.

"I was fortunate to be his friend."

Copyright 2012 Boston Herald Inc.

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