To many who knew him, George Bell was the embodiment of a small town police chief. On Sunday night the longtime Cambridge-Greenwich police chief’s ended far too young. Matt Hunter reports.
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. – Few would argue George Bell wasn't one of a kind.
A crusty exterior, but it masks a very warm and caring guy,” Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said Monday morning. “That really defines George right there perfectly."
"I told him he should've been a psychologist, because it didn't matter what my mood was, he could smooth things out," Barbara Reeley said.
For the past four decades, Bell was a fixture in the Washington County law enforcement community, spending the last 20 years as Cambridge-Greenwich police chief.
"He definitely dedicated his life to law enforcement and the people of the county and both villages," Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said.
"He was the epitome of that small town policing. You knew they were there to help you," Cambridge Village Mayor Carmen Bogle said.
On late Sunday evening, many were stunned by the news the 64-year-old had passed away after suffering an apparent heart attack at his home in Cambridge.
"My reaction was just shock, just complete shock," Bogle said.
"It is just a profound sadness,” Jordan said. “He was young and such an important fixture in the community."
To Reeley and her husband, Dennis Smith, the relationship with Bell was truly unique.
"It's like an empty space all of a sudden in my mind and in my heart," Reeley said.
For the past 11 years, Bell has been the lead investigator into the disappearance of their grandson, Jaliek Rainwalker, who hasn't been seen since he was 12 years old.
"He felt like part of the family at this point,” Smith said. “Just his work ethic, his ability to always have time for everybody, to be genuinely concerned about the case."
For many outside of the community, the search for Rainwalker is what Bell is best known for, but friends, loved ones and colleagues know he treated every case, big and small, with the same dedication.
"They say nobody is irreplaceable, but I think George is, just the way in the way he was able to pull that off," Jordan said.
"I’m going to miss his personality and just being able to reach out and see his smile and know that he's on the case," Reeley said.
Funeral plans are still being arranged. Murphy says his deputies will temporarily handle police operations in the two villages to allow officers in Cambridge and Greenwich to mourn the loss of their chief.