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Honoring a Legend

Retired Indiana State Police officer Cline celebrates 90 in style

Birthday luncheon draws a crowd of his old friends


 
(July 2016)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

(July 2016) – If you’ve ever met Bob Cline, you know immediately you have stumbled upon a real gem of a person. This kind, mild-mannered, gentle man comes across as the grandfatherly type who has led a full life.
And he certainly has done that.
But upon further investigation, or after spending more time talking with him, you may be surprised at just how fascinating his life has been.
A native of Osgood, Ind., he graduated high school in 1944 and served a stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps and earned associate and bachelors degrees from Indiana University East before becoming a policeman.

Read more about Bob Cline’s career and view photos at his website: www.MadisonCameRunning.com

As a lifelong Indiana State Trooper, he had a long and eventful career before retiring in June 1981 as assistant to the superintendent, making Cline second in command at the time he left. In fact, he is one of only two troopers in the history of the department to serve in every rank from trooper all the way to colonel during his 33-year career, which followed
Such experiences allowed him to guard U.S. presidents, live in the Indiana governor’s mansion for a time, rub shoulders with celebrities like Paul Newman and Woody Harrelson, and participate in cleanup of some of Indiana’s worst disasters.
He has seen a lot.

Photos by Don Ward

Bob Cline enjoys a surprise birthday luncheon June16 at The Livery Stable in Madison, Ind. Joining him are (from left) his daughter, Amanda Ferris of Greenfield, Ind., his niece Aletha Keaton of Cross Plains, Ind., and Libby Mann, Broadway Hotel owner who organized the event.

During that span, Cline also left his mark on young troopers and his older peers working at all levels of police work. And boy does he have stories to tell. Perhaps that is part of the fascination with this man – a pure walking storybook of life on the beat.
But that’s only half the story. Upon retiring, Cline moved from Richmond, Ind., to Madison, Ind., in 1992 with his wife of 63 years, Rita.
But retirement was not ready for Bob Cline. He soon found himself tapped to head up a police force at nearby Hanover College. This led to him lead security details for people such as Harrelson, a Hanover College graduate, whenever the famed Hollywood actor came back to visit the campus. After seven years and at age 73, Cline retired from his Hanover College post.
But again, retirement was not ready for Bob Cline. With the onslaught of the Internet, Cline found himself learning HTML code from friend Jeffrey Burleson and contributing photos and articles to Burleson’s website, OldMadison.com. He wanted to learn more, so he took a computer course at Ivy Tech Community College, and soon he was off on his own, creating and managing his own Madison website,
MadisonCameRunning.com. His wife, Rita, would help him gather photos of churches, old buildings, the Ohio River, steamboats and, perhaps his favorite subject, the Madison Regatta and Miss Madison race team.

Photo provided

Bob and Rita Cline were married 63 years. Rita died in November 2010 after a long illness.

Cline used an alias name, “Roger Bean,” as author of the website instead of his real name. Turns out Roger Bean was the nickname given to his father, Arley, who managed an A&P grocery in his hometown of Osgood. Apparently, Arley Cline reminded locals about a 1920s comic strip about a shopkeeper. Cline revived the moniker when he launched his Madison website.
Cline also used the site to write about his colorful life as a state policeman. He also penned a touching tribute to his beloved Rita, who died in November 2010. Just prior to her death, Cline spent four years caring for Rita when she became ill with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. A Madison friend, Libby Mann, said Cline visited her grave in Osgood, Ind., nearly every day for many months after her death.
“He took care of her, so her passing was very difficult for him since he had been her caregiver and companion for so long,” said Amanda Ferris, 64, the Cline’s only child who now lives in Greenfield, Ind.
Cline and his wife had a fairytale romance throughout their lives, and he absolutely adored her, his friends say.
In recent years, Cline’s age has deteriorated. He lives alone in an apartment behind the Broadway Hotel. He has lunch at the restaurant nearly every day, and staff members make sure to walk him back to his home afterward.

Photo provided

Bob Cline spent 33 years as an Indiana State Policeman, holding every rank and retiring as a colonel in 1981.

“He likes Jim Beam, and he’s allowed only two drinks a day,” joked Mann, who owns the Broadway Hotel and has become a close friend of his. “He likes to joke that I am his fiancé.”
Cline was approaching his 90th birthday on June 17, so Mann planned a surprise birthday luncheon the day before for her friend at her Livery Stable reception hall, located next door to the Broadway Hotel. Nearly 60 people attended. When they escorted Cline in, he became very emotional to see, not only his Madison friends in the room, but several Indiana State Police troopers and retired officers from his long career. Mann’s own cousin, John Mann of Versailles, Ind., and himself a retired ISP detective sergeant, emceed the event and introduced Cline.
“I’m not good at this sort of thing,” Cline said, trying to hold back tears.
Madison Mayor Damon Welch and several City Councilmen presented Cline with a key to the city. A letter from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was read, honoring Cline for his service. Photos of Cline and Rita adorned the front table, where birthday cake awaited.
“If I get to be 90 and look half that good, I’ll be happy,” quipped Bob Hartsaw, 65, a Madison resident who has become close friends with Cline in recent years. “I think that website kept him going after his wife died. It keeps him occupied and I think it’s one reason he has been doing so well.

Bob Cline

Hartsaw joked that, “I’m one of his ‘new’ friends. This room is full of his old friends who have known him much longer.”
One such “old friend,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter, paid a visit to Cline in April to have lunch. Carter arrived via a helicopter that landed on the baseball field next to the Brown Gym, just a block from the Broadway Hotel.
Other state officers from Indianapolis and elsewhere often drop in to see their old friend, Mann said. “Everybody loves Bob. I love him to death. He’s like family to us,” she said through tears. “He’s a special man and full of stories.”
ISP Maj. Danny Price traveled to Madison from Indianapolis to attend the luncheon. When asked to speak to the crowd, he said, “Col. Cline not only made the department great, he continues to do that with his website. Please don’t doubt the influence you have had on us. You are a true inspiration.”
Cline still takes photos and posts them on his website, but he is slowing down, said a friend Paul Dills. A retired banker from Dry Ridge, Ky., Dills moved to Madison a year ago when he bought Cline’s daughter’s house. Cline has talked Dills into continuing his MadisonCameRunning.com website after he is gone.
“I didn’t want to do it at first, but Bob convinced me,” said Dills. “He keeps talking about dying, and Bob doesn’t want all of those photos of Madison churches and riverboats to be lost, so I told him I would do it.”
Dills plans to start a separate website called MadisonCameRunning2.com. “Bob will continue to manage his website for as long as he is able.”
When asked to take the microphone near the end of the luncheon, Cline stood, cane in one hand and mic in the other, with close friend and retired ISP Capt. Jim White holding his arm tightly. He told the crowd he could only think of one thing to say – something that he remembered receiving in a note from a colleague years ago upon that colleague’s retirement from the ISP: “My kindness personal regards to all of you…”

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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