By Angeljean Chiaramida STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News
---- — SEABROOK — After more than 34 years with the Seabrook Police Department, including the last four as chief, Patrick Manthorn is retiring.
Selectmen announced yesterday that Manthorn had sent an email notifying officials of his intent to retire from a career that saw the former U.S. Marine rise through the ranks to assume the duties of chief in February 2008.
Since they only learned about Manthorn’s decision yesterday, selectmen did not say how they would proceed in choosing his permanent replacement. In August, selectmen appointed then Deputy Chief Lee Bitomske to the position of interim chief.
Plagued by illness is recent years, Manthorn has been on sick leave since April. Former colleague and recently retired Seabrook police officer Jim Cawley said his advice to his former chief is to “take one day at a time and enjoy life.”
“I wish him well, and I hope his health improves; that’s the most important factor,” Cawley said.
Born in Ipswich and raised in Hamilton, Manthorn, 60, joined the department in 1978, earning his sergeant’s stripes in 1981. He was appointed deputy chief by then chief David Currier in 2004, and became chief when Currier retired in 2008.
His grown sons, Patrick Jr. and Gregory, pinned the chief’s stars on their father at his swearing in ceremony, with his “wife, partner and best friend” Carol looking on. The couple lives in Hampton.
“I’ve worked with Pat for 23 years,” police Lt. Michael Gallagher said yesterday after learning the news. “He was my road sergeant when I started. I always thought he was a good leader. He was a pleasure to work with and I wish him the best.”
Starting in 1980, Bitomske was also under Manthorn’s tutelage.
“He was my patrol sergeant and I had a lot of fun working with Pat,” Bitomske said. “We didn’t always agree on everything, no one does, but I had a lot of good times with him. I wish him well in his retirement and I hope he catches a lot of big stripers.”
The tidiness of Manthorn’s office always bore witness to his military demeanor and days serving as a Marine during the Vietnam era, from 1968 through 1972. Manthorn was proud he continued the tradition begun by his late father, who fought at Iwo Jima while serving in the Marine Corps in World War II. Manthorn’s love of the Marines was passed down to his son, Gregory, a Marine reservist who served in Iraq.
Manthorn, who spent his entire law enforcement career in Seabrook, said when he took over as chief his mantra would be “teamwork.” He assumed a department that suffered from divided loyalties at the time. That was something Manthorn worked to eliminate, saying he just wanted “the past to be the past,” and for his officers to become devoted to the causes of unity and of protecting the residents of Seabrook.
“I have no hidden agenda,” Manthorn said after being sworn in as chief. “I just want this department to work the way it should. To do that, we need to work as a team. All part of a unit working as one.”
Manthorn’s secretary Janine Petit spoke to Manrthorn’s wry sense of humor, which at times made it hard to tell if he was serious or joking until he cracked a small smile. But there was one thing she knew for sure.
“He loved to cook,” Petit said. “He always cooked up stews and things and he brought them in here for everyone to enjoy.”
Gallagher said Manthorn’s meals were a welcome treat during the holiday season.
“He’d bring those meals in on Thanksgiving and Christmas especially,” Gallagher said. “They were awesome.”
Manthorn’s health presented challenges over the years. Prior to taking over as chief, Manthorn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After battling the disease for months, he returned to duty, thinner but just as committed to the cause. Two years ago, Manthorn again faced a serious illness when pulmonary problems put him on leave for months. Again, he fought back and returned to his office and his men.
For Sgt. Jason Allen, who worked beside Manthorn for decades, there’s high praise for a former leader who can retire knowing he did a great job.
“Pat was, without a doubt, one of the best chiefs I’ve ever worked for,” Allen said. “He’s always been there for all of us. He always put the patrolmen first.”