NORTH ADAMS — Longtime North Adams Public Safety Commissioner John Morocco, who retired in 2012, died Friday, after battling health issues for several years.
Those who worked with Morocco recalled his above-and beyond dedication to the city, policing and the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.
"He was one of the best detectives the department ever had," said state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, who appointed Morocco to the commissioner's post when he was mayor. "We became the lead agency for the county because of him."
Morocco joined the city Police Department in 1975, according to a joint statement from North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, Fire Chief Steve Meranti and Police Chief Jason Wood.
While Morocco could have retired long before 2012, he served the city for 37 years, Barrett said.
When the task force was formed, Morocco fought hard to obtain grants and funding for the program, Barrett said.
"He was a cop's cop. That was his life. He was committed to it," Barrett said. "Whether we agreed about everything or not, he was the best person for the job."
While serving on the task force, Morocco made lifelong friends, many of whom still get together from time to time for lunch.
When former Lenox Police Chief Timothy Face got a call from Morocco's cellphone Friday, he thought that the former commissioner, 74, was trying to reschedule a gathering he had missed Wednesday because of a conflicting doctor's appointment.
To his surprise, it was Morocco's daughter, Tammy, letting him know about her father's death.
"You couldn't find a better officer, or narcotics officer, than John was," Face, who retired in 2005, recalled of their time together on the task force.
Up until three years ago, when Morocco fell ill, he, Face and another former officer would vacation together with their wives.
He was a likable, sometimes comical, man, Face said.
On Tuesday night, the two had exchanged text messages. Morocco said he was having trouble breathing, and Face told him to reach out when he was feeling better.
While their group usually meets up in Lee, Face was trying to relocate its lunches to North Adams so Morocco wouldn't have to drive as far.
"Like so many people in the city who answer the call to service, Commissioner Morocco loved the city of North Adams and took incredible pride in our community and gave back as a volunteer with many community groups. It was a love matched and rivaled only by his love for his family, including his wife, Sue, his children Tammy and Bill, and his grandchildren," the statement from North Adams officials said.
"We offer our sincere condolences to The Morocco family, and to Commissioner Morocco's brothers and sisters in uniform in the North Adams Police and Fire Departments."
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.