Renaissance man: Remembering a fallen officer
Officers Christopher Argentinis and John Walcek always greeted each other with a firm handshake and friendly teasing as they worked together at the Wareham Police Station. Handling numerous calls together, they always relied on each other’s support and protection.
Their unbreakable friendship ended abruptly. On Dec. 11 of 1999, Argentinis was struck by a State Police Cruiser as he chased a suspect on foot. He died from injuries sustained in the accident three days later, leaving behind his wife of ten years, Maureen, and their two sons, three-year-old Nikolas and five-year-old Darius.
A week before the 20th anniversary of his death, Walcek, now an Acting Chief, said the 36-year-old officer is still missed — especially at this time of year.
“When he was at the hospital I touched his hand and it did not respond,” recalled Walcek. “That really bothered me because I remembered how we’d always give each other a firm handshake.”
After serving at the department for 12 years, Argentinis, was buried on Dec. 17, just a little more than a week before Christmas.
“I miss him every day,” said Maureen. “Holidays are hard, Christmas is hard but that Christmas, in particular, was just unimaginably hard… not having him there. As the boys grew up, it of course would hit me all the time, but sometimes it was with things like going to see the boys’ games. Since there was just me, seeing their games meant I caught part of one boy’s game, part of the other’s, always playing catch-up. And if he could be there, he would have loved all of those moments, all of those events for school and sports.”
Argentinis’ mother, Beth Godfrey, said she misses her son “terribly,” but one of the things she feels most sad about is that he did not get to see his children grow up and “how awesome they are,” adding that he would have been very proud of them.
And he would have been proud indeed. A valedictorian at Bourne High School, twenty-five-year-old Darius now works as a paramedic and is preparing to begin medical school. Twenty-three-year-old Nikolas graduated from Northeastern University and now works as an industrial engineer for a company that develops artificial pancreas. Argentinis “lives through his kids,” said Walcek, as they share his father’s interests, including a love for music, sports, and constant learning.
Officers in the Wareham Police Department remembered Argentinis as a “renaissance man” who could frequently be seen reading “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” in his car. He was the type of person who loved to have political debates and discuss the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll, the intricacies of classical music, and the history of The Beatles.
Argentinis’ mother said he “was never bored — he always had something going on.” He earned a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, played in his 16-piece Big Band “Top Shelf” at local clubs, and practiced trumpet at home, all while being a reliable co-worker, devoted husband, and loving father.
In addition to helping him stay in great physical condition, his jiu-jitsu skills helped Officer Argentinis safely detain suspects.
Lieutenant Walter Correia, who wears a remembrance prayer card for Officer Argentinis inside his cap, remembered responding to a call with summer Officer Jeff Trip. Upon their arrival, officers encountered a huge fight involving eight family members.
In an attempt to restore the peace, Correia attempted to stop the biggest fighter who in return pummeled the lieutenant.
“I was on the ground and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh, man we are in some stuff here.’ But then, I looked up and I saw blue lights and it was Chris. He came up to the biggest one and he did some type of jiu-jitsu thing. And the next thing I know, that big guy was on the ground,” said Correia.
Walcek said Argentinis’ death in the line of duty is a reflection on the dangers of the job that officers face every day.
“It’s a deadly serious business, and when you are looking at two little kids, a mother and a wife, it makes it very real,” said Walcek, who served as a pallbearer at Argentinis’ funeral. “I remember one of the things that bothered me about coming back to work is seeing his car here for a few days. It bothered me to see it here because we knew that he was not coming back.”
Argentinis’ pursuit to help and save people did not cease after his death, as his heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and leg veins were transplanted to other people.
“And you know that was a good heart to get,” said Walcek. “Chris led a good life, a healthy life.”
In honor of Officer Argentinis, the Wareham Police Department will place a wreath in his honor at the Wareham Police Memorial. This winter, the department also plans to install a plaque in his honor at the Plymouth Police Academy.