A Life Remembered: A hero is lost in former Waseca police chief

Nov. 2—Jim Staloch was such a nice guy, even criminals he arrested had good things to say about him.

He was always fair, even when he disagreed with you.

He was in tune to his staff's growth and development.

He could make light when appropriate and was always looking for fun.

These attributes, and more, are what those who knew and loved Staloch want others to know about this magnanimous man who served the city of Waseca for years as a public servant, including as police chief.

He died at his Waseca home on Oct. 28 at the age of 76.

He'd started with the Waseca police department in 1974, became police chief in 1993 and retired in 2003.

"He was such a good guy," his daughter Ann Fitch said. "I've lived in Waseca my entire life, and when I turned 21 and started going out to the bars, I would run into people my dad had arrested. They would tell me how cool my dad was. They would come up to me and say, 'Hey, you're Jim Staloch's daughter?" They'd say, 'He's arrested me a few times and he's a cool dude.'"

"We didn't see eye to eye all the time," recalls Roy Srp, who served Waseca as mayor for 14 years. "But Jim would listen and he always wanted to be listened to. Those are the best people, are the ones who listen and you in turn want to listen to them. And he was passionate about his family, his friends and his community, right to the end."

A former employee of Staloch's, Micheal Anderson, recalls when the then-police chief heard his request to help another law enforcement agency with a "who done it" type of homicide. Would he miss any of his work for the Waseca police, Staloch asked him. No, Anderson answered.

Permission granted, Staloch said. "He recognized the benefit of going and working on big cases," Anderson said. "He knew it would help his officers grow."

Anderson said Staloch was a "problem solver" type of guy, and ingrained in his staff that they should have the same outlook. "He viewed police as problem solvers," Anderson said. "He'd say, if we can help solve a problem, that's what we're here to do.

"I'm sad about his passing," he said. "He was a really good guy and a good mentor."

One of the most notable cases Staloch worked on was the Cally Jo Larson murder. Those close to him say Staloch vowed he wouldn't retire until the case had been solved — and it was.

The 12-year-old Waseca girl had been murdered after arriving home from school to find an intruder in the house. There was a yearlong investigation with Staloch as "point person," Anderson said, for the media, other law enforcement agencies that were involved and the community at large. Anderson said Staloch handled the assignment with grace.

"I think a lot of people will remember that case," said Waseca Police Chief Penny Vought. "Jim was very victim oriented. He would do whatever we could to help victims, and that was just Jim's belief. He was a good friend and a good mentor. He mentored a lot during his career."

"Jim was in charge and knew exactly how to do things," said Connie Kaddatz, Cally Jo's mother. "He knew how to talk to people and he permitted us to be a part of the team so our voices were heard. The whole investigative team there was just incredible. We lost a hero in Jim."

And while he took his job seriously, Staloch was known for bringing levity to the fore as well.

Fitch said her dad was devoted to embarrassing her and her three brothers any chance he got. One night, after returning home late with a friend and causing a ruckus in the kitchen, her dad appeared wearing only his underwear and a tie to check on the noisy duo.

"I was probably 20 years old at the time, and my friend and I both just busted a gut laughing and I asked him 'What the heck are you doing?' and he said he didn't want to come out here looking stupid so he put on a tie. He had no problem embarrassing us. He said, 'You two seem to have everything under control. I'm going back to bed.'"

He was also "a big fan of butter," his daughter said. "He actually did a lot of baking and cooking. He was excellent. He'd learned from his mom and dad. It's a family tradition. We cooked a lot at home. We didn't eat out a lot as a family of six on a public servant's salary.

"We ate at home and we ate well," Fitch said. "Butter was always a main staple. He would never pay full price, and he always kept a good stock of butter at home."

Funeral services are 11:30 a.m. Monday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Waseca.