GRPD salutes oldest member of force from outside hospital

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Among the unfortunate consequences of the response to the coronavirus pandemic is that people in the hospital are unable to see their loved ones due to strict visitor restrictions.

Regardless, a squad of Grand Rapids police personnel made sure the oldest living person to serve the department got to see and hear how much they thought of him.

Retired GRPD Capt. Cliff Carlon is spending what will likely be his last days in hospice at Metro Health in Wyoming. At 99, he has a multitude of critical health issues, all unrelated to coronavirus.

A file image of Grand Rapids Police Department Capt. Cliff Carlon. (Courtesy photo)

From his window Thursday, he was able to see some of the appreciation his former compatriots hold for him. Seven cruisers came in the hospital drive, sirens blaring. Officers wearing their dress uniforms offered a salute to Carlon from outside.

His family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren watched from outside the hospital, which has closed them out to safeguard the staff and patients.

“He knows we’re here, we know he’s there but not being able to give him a hug and say we love you is difficult,” granddaughter Lindsey Huffman said.

Carlon joined the fight in World War II at age 21, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as a mechanic with a tank destroyer battalion in Europe before transferring to the occupation forces in Austria.

After a stint a dairy company after returning home, he joined the Grand Rapids Police Department. He served there until his retirement in 1981 at the rank of captain.

He has become an icon to many of the younger members of the force, who gathered to celebrate his 98th birthday last year with a group of officers at GRPD headquarters.

Retired Capt. Cliff Carlon celebrates his 98th birthday with a group of GRPD officers. (Courtesy photo)

“It’s amazing, the support has been incredible from the police force and it’s been so great,” Huffman said.

For Carlon’s family, the tribute from GRPD meant a lot.

“He made it very clear that this is something he wanted to happen. He wanted the police department to be aware. He’s always held that close to his heart,” Huffman said.

Metro staff said many of the patients were able to enjoy the display and it helped break up the monotony of life in the hospital, especially in current circumstances.