Gaudet’s memory honored by city
BUCKHANNON — “It takes a special person to a police officer.”
This is a line that Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory first heard from the person who hired him as a patrolman, Chief Fred Gaudet. Now in the chief’s role for the last nearly 15 years, Gregory shares that line with his new hires.
On Wednesday, Gregory and the City of Buckhannon paid tribute to Gaudet, who died while he was police chief in 1999, during the third annual Webb Grubb Police Recognition Day held at the Buckhannon Safety Complex.
Gaudet, the son of Mabel and Stanley Gaudet, was a 1968 graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School, a member of the 1966 B-U State Championship Football Team and attended Marshall University on a football scholarship but graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College with a degree in criminal justice and government.
Gaudet graduated from the Richmond Bureau of the Police Academy and began his career in Richmond, Virginia, where he rose to the rank of homicide detective before returning home to Upshur County and being elected to terms as sheriff, magistrate and county commissioner.
In his tenure as Buckhannon Police Chief, he introduced a policy manual and many professionally oriented trainings for the entire Buckhannon Police Department.
Gregory called Gaudet a mentor to him.
“One of my earliest memories of Fred was when he was sheriff of Upshur County,” Gregory said. “I remember how he would come to school and talk about police officers and safety and how, as a young boy, I would stare wide-eyed at him and be enthralled by everything he had to say. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to be just like him, that I wanted to be a police officer myself.”
After college, Gregory said he was lucky enough to be hired by Gaudet as a patrolman at the BPD.
“From the very first day, Fred imparted an abundance of wisdom upon me as he discussed the virtues of police work and taught me how to be a police officer,” Gregory said. “Fred was a tremendous person to work for. His experience and his capability of being a good police officer and police chief were second to none. I learned so much from him and feel that I am much better because of him.”
Mayor David McCauley said Gaudet was “the consummate professional. He made our Buckhannon Police Department better and as sheriff of Upshur County he made us better too. He helped make us safer and better as a community. What better legacy could a hero leave?”
Lt. Mark Davis with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department and pastor of Faith Baptist Church shared his own memory of Gaudet.
“When I was 23 years ago, I set across the desk from Fred Gaudet at the sheriff’s office being interviewed for the job of a correction’s officer. After Fred finished the interview, he said, ‘Mark, I’m going to take a chance on you but I don’t think you will ever stay. You are just too young. I will get you trained and I know you will move on someplace else.'”
But Davis replied, “Sheriff, if you hire me for this job, I promise you I will retire from this department.’ Fred just set back in his chair as he used to do and he laughed great big as only Fred could and he said, ‘we will just have to see.'”
Now 33 years later Davis said he is still enjoying his law enforcement career at the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department.
“I have Fred Gaudet to thank for that because he was the man who gave me my chance,” Davis said. “I’m glad he took a chance on me and I will never forget it.”
The ceremony included the unveiling of the City of Buckhannon’s new Blue Wall that honors Grubb, the 2017 recipient, and the 2018 recipient, Keith Rowan and is in the Public Safety Complex parking lot.