Soft-spoken with a New York accent, Ken Conlon made his debut as an "outsider" but will be fondly remembered as a fixture in Davenport for his service and generosity, friends and family said.
The former Davenport police chief was hired by then-Republican Mayor Robert Duax in 1976 as the first "outsider" in the department's history, made possible by a new state law that permitted cities to select a chief from outside their department.
Conlon, 89, died Thursday, Sept. 10, at his home in Davenport. A funeral service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at Weerts Funeral Home in Davenport. Visitation will be held at 11 a.m., according to an obituary. Burial will follow at the Rock Island National Cemetery.
Memorials can be made to the Humane Society and condolences left at www.weertsfuneralhome.com.
Conlon started his law enforcement career as a New York State Trooper before moving to the New York City Police Department.
He spent roughly 20 years with the NYPD, leaving as captain to take the job as Davenport's police chief, said his wife, Sharon Conlon, 83, of Davenport.
"He liked being police chief. And he liked being a policeman," Sharon Conlon said. "His father had been a policeman also in New York."
Ken Conlon served under several Davenport mayors until 1984, when he was fired by then-Mayor Charles Peart. Peart said the department needed "a new face, a new direction" — someone who could make better use of the department's limited manpower — the Quad-City Times reported.
Conlon and his family, however, said his firing was politically motivated.
Conlon at the time said he was relieved to be unburdened of the pressure and politics of being chief. A "burly smoker who left his job at the office," his 7 1/2-year tenure was rocky at times, having to overcome resentment within the department and as a political appointee who had to please the mayor to keep his job, the Times reported.
He left the Quad-Cities in 1986 to become chief of police of the U.S. Supreme Court. He and his wife moved back to Davenport when he retired.
A retired colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard, he was an active member of the American Legion Post 26 and the Davenport Rotary Club. He also served as past president of the Quad-City Times Plus 60 Club.
"He was always friendly and positive ... and always had a kind word," American Legion Post 26 Commander Michael Novak said. "He was there with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye … and happy to be involved in the community as a whole. We’re going to miss him a whole lot."
Michael Conlon, 55, of Davenport, said his father was very private, and never brought his work home.
"But he was always generous and never too judgmental," he said. "He would donate so much money to all of these organizations," nature organizations and the Humane Society among them.
"He was a decent, honest and respectable guy," Michael Conlon said.