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Dispatcher takes final police call
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Police dispatcher Rudy Fowler stands at his communications post in the Manteca Police Department hours before signing off Thursday afternoon after serving the public some 31 years. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Police dispatcher Rudy Fowler has dedicated three decades in keeping his officers safe on the streets of Manteca – doing a great job in serving the public as well.

He was off shift at 4 p.m. Thursday, and he was calling it a day – a career.  His friendly tone in answering the phone of just a simple, “Police department – May I help you?” would surely be recognized by countless Mantecans.

Rudy promises to be available to fill in when needed by the staff of some 10 dispatchers.  He said the job of a dispatcher  “is all about making a difference.”

His greatest accomplishment in making a difference was being able to coach three separate mothers on the telephone on how to perform CPR on their breathless infants.  Two of the babies made it because of Rudy – one did not. That one was tough for him to take, he remembers.  The baby died a week later.

Rudy was one of three dispatchers in the communications center Thursday afternoon fielding calls – standing all the while. It is his demeanor – alert and at the ready for any call that comes in – that’s Rudy.

Asked what he was going to be doing Friday morning, he chuckled, saying: “The laundry!”

Another call that is set in his memory was of a woman who was on the phone telling him she was being stabbed by a Manteca man who had already killed a 14-year-old boy and another man in a house on North Walnut Avenue.

As Rudy was dispatching Officer Bruce Bickle to the scene and trying to console the woman at the same time, she told him the man had come back.  He remembers hearing her being stabbed again.  She had been stabbed repeatedly, more times than the other two and she actually survived.

“When I first got here we didn’t have teletypes and computers.  Now we have lines all over the place – more TVs than at Best Buy,” he joked.

Over 100 of the 911 calls go into the communications center on day shift with another 250 to 300 service calls.  “It keeps you hopping – you never get bored,” he said.

Rudy said working in dispatch is one way of making good friends. You have to back-up each other, he added – it’s like family.

Rudy’s tenure dates back to when he first signed on as an Explorer cadet remembering then chief Dave Walsh, Captain Leonard Taylor, Sgt. Ralph Jessee, officers Danny Beal and Ron Hedberg and,  of course, Tillie Delnero who was acting as the warrant officer.  Tillie was always considered as the one officer who could get through to troubled kids.

Delnero’s  full-life likeness is part of the “Cruising Mural” on the side of Accent Carpets in the 100 block of North Main Street.

The long-time communications officer was also dispatching for the fire department early on in his career when a two-story hotel caught fire about 2 a.m. one morning with some three people dying in the blaze.  The building at the corner of Sycamore and Yosemite avenues was later completely leveled.

He said his biggest challenge has been in making sense of what the caller is trying to report when they are in a total panic mode.  “They know what’s going on, they just can’t communicate it.”

Rudy first attended Lincoln Elementary School before going back to Belgium – his mother’s native country – for a period of time.  Returning to Manteca he attended Golden West School on North Main Street where he remembers teacher Cedric Benjamin having on impact on him in teaching science.

He said that was what launched his interest into amateur astronomy.

At East Union High School he enjoyed the teaching efforts of Grady Lee and Mike Zugnoni.   Civil War History had an impact on his high school days, he said.

“I’ll probably kick back now and do some fishing,” he said.  Also he’s looking at breaking into a golf game with a former dispatcher supervisor who left the department some five years ago.  

“He golfed a lot – now he has to teach me.  “I’ll find out if he’s really good or he’s just been bragging,” Rudy chuckled.

Hiking, camping and a little photography has been his off-duty pursuits.  He said he likes to go to the Tuolumne Meadows back country in Yosemite National Park along with Pine Crest Lake back areas.

He talks proudly of his two children, Michael and Melina who is going to school in Sacramento to become a nurse.