Grass Valley Police Department volunteer Joe Repetski recognized for extraordinary service to community. | TheUnion.com
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Grass Valley Police Department volunteer Joe Repetski recognized for extraordinary service to community.

Grass Valley Police Department's volunteer of the year Joe Repetski patrols Wednesday on Mill Street in Grass Valley.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Being a Grass Valley Police Department volunteer, Joe Repetski says, has changed his life.

“It keeps me young,” Repetski says. “I’m active. I let the other guy drive, I always like to be the one running into the buildings. You feel like you got to show yourself in doing something for somebody … It’s like filling a need.”

Repetski, 84, has clocked in the second most volunteer hours in 2014 with 314, serving close to 950 hours with the department since 2011. He was presented with the “Volunteer of the Year” award at last week’s Grass Valley City Council meeting.



“Joe’s one of those guys that goes above and beyond what he’s asked to do but never looks for recognition for it,” Lt. Alex Gammelgard said. “He’s stepped outside the normal volunteer role. Joe has a sense of humor and is just a joy to be around. He’s a fun guy.”

“(Joe Repetski has) stepped outside the normal volunteer role. Joe has a sense of humor and is just a joy to be around. He’s a fun guy.”Lt. Alex GammelgardGrass Valley Police Department

Originally from Pennsylvania, Repetski grew up in a town just north of Philadelphia and says he previously had a negative perspective of law enforcement.




“The area I came from I really didn’t feel happy with the police department. I really heard some bad stories about what was going on,” Repetski says. “When I came to meet the Grass Valley (officers), it was like another planet. They’re all great guys.”

In 1957, after running into some hard times financially, Repetski decided to move to California with a friend, settling in the San Jose area, where he would live for more than 35 years.

“I got into electronics,” Repetski says. “The stuff they were making back then was for the government. I used to build high-frequency amplifiers, but it was a dying business because we were using vacuum tubes.”

In 1993, Repetski retired at the age of 62; he bought a 50-foot RV trailer with his then-wife and began an extended road trip, visiting friends and family across the country.

“We got to Maine when lobster season was going on,” Repetski recalls. “You could get a couple lobsters for $16 … That didn’t last very long, but it was fun.”

Repetski and his wife decided to settle down in Newport, Oregon, but Repetski says he couldn’t stand the complacency and rainy days. The couple separated; Repetski met his current wife Mary, and the two moved to Colorado together, where they lived for four years.

“I started doing volunteer work with a church out there,” Repetski says. “I was doing handyman stuff, you know if something’s wrong I’d go over and fix it. Whether it was cement work, electrical or plumbing … I couldn’t live not doing anything, you gotta be doing something. So it made my life worthwhile. It gave me a reason to get out of bed.”

Repetski’s wife suggested he get involved with a nationwide church group called Mission America Placement Services, which did volunteer work at churches and campgrounds around the country. Repetski and his wife joined, taking his RV trailer back on the road to different parishes around the nation, volunteering for almost six years.

“We even went back to Pennsylvania,” Repetski adds. “It was really nice because my family was all still in that area, so it gave us a chance to travel and visit friends and family.”

In 2001, the couple decided to settle down in Hemet, camping out of their trailer. Repetski said he got work as a school bus driver, but felt something wasn’t right.

“God didn’t give me peace with that,” Repetski says. “I just felt uneasy, although I was doing good, (God) wanted me out for some reason.”

Repetski’s stepson, who lived in Nevada City, had bought a house in Grass Valley and asked Repetski and his wife to take care of it. So the couple moved to Grass Valley in 2010, and attempted to get to know more people in the community.

Repetski says he attended a Toys for Tots event at a Wells Fargo bank during Christmas time, and saw “this old guy” wearing a uniform.

“I said ‘Isn’t he kind of old to be on the police force?’” Repetski said laughingly. “And they told me about the volunteer police force, and suggested I look into it. So I did.”

Repetski joined the volunteer force in 2011, and has since served two days a week helping the department with serving subpoenas, identifying parking violators, directing traffic during special events and traffic accidents, delivering messages for the District Attorney’s, dispatch and the sheriff’s offices, and doing car and foot patrols around the city.

“I wanted to get to know the town, and the people, and the police department,” Repetski says. “And so far I’ve had many enjoyable moments.”

Repetski also got involved with helping maintain Grass Valley’s Animal Control building.

Senior Animal Control Officer Roger Waina has worked with Repetski for two years and last week during an awards ceremony told the City Council the reasons why Repetski deserved to win the Volunteer of the Year award.

“(Joe) continues to exemplify the meaning of dedication and hard work,” Waina said. “He gives his time and services without reservation … Joe’s our man. He’s also very kind, a loyal man whose sense of humor brightens me every day I see him. His willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty is why he is my vote for the volunteer of the year.”

Repetski says he enjoys giving back to his community, and he hopes to continue volunteering with the department for years to come.

“I get to go places that regular citizens can’t go, so you feel like you have access to things,” Repetski says. “You find out there is a need for you, and you just decide to do it.”

For more information, go to http://www.cityofgrassvalley.com/departments/police.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477- 4236.


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