‘He will be missed by many’: Retired Gastonia police chief dies of COVID-19 complications

Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:17 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - A retired Gastonia police chief died from COVID-19 complications at CaroMont Regional Medical Center on Friday, according to his obituary.

Rodney Allen Parham, 65, was named Gastonia’s 19th police chief in 2001 until he retired in 2003.

He served in the police department for 30 years, in various roles.

The Gastonia Police Department said Parham “helped the department evolve into the professional law enforcement agency it is today with many accomplishments including a focus on community partnerships and communications.”

Parham was honored by the police department with his retirement ceremony on on Oct. 31, 2003.

This is what the retired police chief said at the time:

“It’s so hard to walk away from something I’ve been a part of for so long,” Parham said. “I have seen the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. I have seen heroes of every size and age. And not all of them were police officers.

“You can make better decisions if you use your mind and your heart, and not just your mind. “People are the most important part of any organization, and if you don’t care about them and their needs and feelings you will fail. I have tried to be a good listener and consider the impact of any decision I make.

“A chief can fail on his own. He doesn’t need any help. If a chief is successful, it takes the whole department. So if there have been any successes over the past 2½ years, they are not mine, they are ours.

“All I ever wanted to do was be a policeman. I have always felt like this is a job that can truly make a difference.”

Current Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said Parham made Gastonia a better place.

“We certainly appreciate Chief Parham’s service to the Gastonia Police Department and the City of Gastonia,” Helton said. “Through all of Chief Parham’s 30 years with the GPD he was known for being caring, compassionate, honest, committed to Gastonia and his family, and a good cop. He left a legacy that made Gastonia a better place. He died too young on Aug. 7 and will be missed by many.”

WBTV spoke to Helton in an interview Monday evening. He spoke about the seriousness of the virus in the wake of Parham’s death.

“When you lose someone that you’ve know for around 30 years, you just think about how serious this is and the impact that it has, and I know many have lost loved ones and family members to this, but he was like a family member to us here at the police department,” said Helton.

Both Helton and Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid said that members of the public need to continue being cautious when it comes to the pandemic.

“I hope people understand by his loss that we need to take this thing even more serious and we need to do what we need to do to keep ourselves out of harm’s way and also our family, friends out of harm’s way and take this pandemic very serious,” said Reid.

Helton said his officers are also trying to be extra safe in the midst of the pandemic.

“We just have been trying to take all the precautions that we can. We have a job to do so we still have to get out and work within the community, but we certainly have to take as many safety measures as possible,” said the police chief.

Bob Holland, a friend of Parham, described the former chief as, “a great law enforcement officer and a great Christian man that treated his subordinates with respect and was respected by all that served him”.

Parham was preceded in death by his wife of 14 years, Jo Ann Buckley Parham. Visitation will be Tuesday, August 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at First Freewill Baptist Church, 2316 Union Road, Gastonia.

Funeral Services will be 10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 12 at First Freewill Baptist Church with Pastor Darren Gibbs officiating.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, face masks and social distancing will be required.

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