AMESBURY — Two generations of the Leary family came together to welcome a third into the family business Thursday afternoon when 24-year-old Liam Leary was sworn in as an Amesbury police officer.
While Liam Leary had already spent five months working as an Amesbury reserve officer, he was joined by his father, Amesbury Detective Sean Leary, and his grandfather, retired Amesbury Detective Joe Leary, as they witnessed his swearing-in ceremony at police headquarters.
“It’s exciting,” Liam Leary said. “I always wanted to do this when I was growing up and I am excited to finally do it.”
A one-time special officer in the Boston Police Department, Joe Leary had the pleasure of pinning a badge on his son, Sean, in 1994 and did the same for the firstborn of his 10 grandchildren, Liam, on Thursday.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” Joe Leary said. “And I’m very proud of my son and my grandson. I am so emotional right now, I don’t know how I’m holding back. I thought I would be breaking down like a baby, but I told them I wouldn’t do that tonight. So I won’t.”
Having three generations of Learys serving in the same police department might seem unusual to some, but not to Sean Leary.
“It seems like it is more surprising to other people than it is to us,” he said.
An Amesbury High School graduate, Liam Leary studied liberal arts at Westfield State College, partially based on his father’s advice.
“He has always been interested in (police work),” Sean Leary said. “I think about halfway or three-quarters of the way through college, that seemed to be where he was leaning. It was either a police officer or military. He was looking at both. But he wasn’t a criminal justice major in college and I told him I preferred that he wasn’t. A degree is a degree and I told him, ‘You can get your master’s in criminal justice later if you want to.’ So he took liberal arts and it didn’t pigeonhole him, he could do something else.”
But Liam decided to join the family business after all, which made his grandfather very proud as well.
“Actually, my father was a special officer in Billerica and he pinned mine on me,” Joe Leary said. “Then I pinned my son’s on him and now on my grandson.”
Sean Leary eventually worked his way up to detective when his father retired after 27 years as a detective in 1999, before he moved on to the Newburyport Police Department for 14 more years of service.
“I think I kept his Rolodex,” Sean Leary said. “(Liam) was in diapers when I started.”
Just like his early years on the force, father now passes son in the hallways at police headquarters.
“You don’t work the same shift,” said Sean Leary. “We see each other in passing, but we are not working at the same time. But if I work an overtime shift, he will be working the same hours.”
Conveniently enough, the Learys will also be able to pass each other during their off-hours, since Liam still lives at home.
“I’ll be working with him for the next 10 years,” Sean Leary said. “Then I’ll be gone. He is just a good kid. He has a good heart and will do the right thing. He is 24 and it is good to get on (the force) then. He got on a little bit before I did and it’s not an easy job to get these days.”
When asked if watching his son’s swearing-in ceremony made him feel old, Sean Leary replied, “A little bit.”
Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached on Twitter @ndnsully, via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145.