Donald Eunson, a lifelong Bedford resident and US Navy veteran who served the Town of Bedford as its police chief for nearly four decades, died on Thursday, February 22, 2018 after a brief illness. He was 89 and had spent more than half of his life in military or police service.
Mr. Eunson served the Bedford Police Department for 44 years, joining the department as an officer on July 13, 1953. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1957 and Chief on Sept. 1, 1959, a post he would remain in for 37 years until he retired on July 30, 1993. He also served as Bedford’s acting fire chief in 1973.
Born on July 5, 1928, Mr. Eunson grew up on a farm in Bedford and was part of a Bedford Junior High baseball team that went undefeated in 1945. Along with his brother, Jack, the Eunson boys kept the neighborhood kids busy with their own hybrid that was said to be part basketball, part hockey in a converted recreation room at a barn on North Road, according to the Bedford Historical Society.
Above all else, Mr. Eunson was known as a man of steadfast integrity.
“I have never met a more honest man than Donald Eunson,” said retired Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert A. Barton, a Bedford resident. “He was as honest as the day is long. As chief, the Bedford Police Department was beyond reproach.”
During his time as chief, Mr. Eunson was known for a mix of traditional management and a willingness to embrace new and emerging law enforcement tools.
“Chief Eunson commanded a measure of respect. He worked the trenches and came off as an old-school chief, but he fundamentally changed and modernized the Bedford Police Department in many ways,” said Robert Bongiorno, Bedford’s current police chief. “He may have carried a six-shot service revolver low on his hip, but he also made Bedford one of the first police departments in the region to embrace computers and adopt cruiser cameras, years before most other agencies.”
His commitment to technology in the 80s and 90s furthered his reputation for honesty while offering a new level of protection for police officers.
“It showed transparency, but cameras also protect the officer by putting everything on the record,” Judge Barton said. “It was way ahead of its time.”
He had his pet peeves as chief. Top of the list: calling in sick.
“He used to make officers call him at home if they were sick. I remember his favorite response: ‘What’s the matter? Do you have a sprained eyebrow?’” said his son, Steve. “And then he would go visit them just to see how sick they really were. As a result there were very few sick days taken on the department back in the day.”
While he seemed to embrace the role of disciplinarian and manager, Chief Eunson’s wit, occasional sarcasm, and sharpness drew the admiration of his officers and counterparties. He also loved baseball, and was remembered for his regular chats about the Red Sox around the police station.
“As a young officer, I knew Chief Eunson as a good man and an avid baseball fan who always took an interest in the Red Sox and the goings on around town,” said Bedford Police Lt. Scott Jones. “Even after he retired, he would visit and ask me ‘How many years ya got on, Kid?’ When I eventually told him I had over 20 years on, without missing a beat he replied ‘Ok, you get a week’s vacation.”
Lt. Jones, who worked his Chief Eunson early in his career, credits him with bringing the Bedford Police Department into the modern age. In addition to cameras and station computers, he pioneered the use of laptops in cruisers in the 1990s and adapted modern and emerging training techniques for the department.
Chief Eunson is predeceased by his first wife Betty (Johnson) and leaves his wife Dorothy (Agrillo Roberts) and three sons, Donald Jr. of Hudson, NH; Albert of Gaithersburg, MD; and David of Dunstable. He also had two cherished grandchildren, Etienne and Alienor. He is also remembered by his wife’s children from a previous marriage, Deborah Genetti of Bedford; Linda McMahon, of Greenville, ME; James, of CA; and Steve of Bedford.
Visiting hours were held Tuesday, February 27, 2018 in Shawsheen Funeral Home. A Memorial Service was held in the Funeral Home on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Burial with full military honors followed in Shawsheen Cemetery where a Police Honor Guard escorted the hearse from the gates to the family grave.