REED CITY — The walls in his office were bare, his desk empty and after crossing the last remaining items off an exit checklist, Sgt. Gary Cole walked out of the Reed City Police Department on Friday as a retired police officer.

Cole, who has been a police officer for a total of 42 years, knows it’s time for new blood, but it’s still difficult to leave, he said.

“I’ve had a very satisfying career,” Cole said. “The people of Reed City and the department here are really a good bunch of people. It’s hard to move on.”

The desire to be a police officer emerged when Cole was 16 years old, and he thinks it was probably spurred by witnessing a terrible car accident.

“There was mass confusion, injuries and everybody was running around,” he said. “This police officer showed up on the scene and he immediately assessed the scene and took control of the situation by helping people and getting responding units. As I was watching this as a boy, I thought, ‘Wow, I’d like to do something like that and help.’”

Cole started his career at the Detroit Police Department where he served for four years. He then moved back to Ogemaw County, where he was born and raised, taking the chief of police position for Mills Township. With a need for motor carrier officers in the county, Cole completed cross training to be trained to enforce laws and restrictions for commercial vehicles.

In 1996, Cole accepted a position with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. He began a full-time position with the Reed City Police Department in 1998, and also maintained a part-time position with Osceola County to do commercial vehicle enforcement for the road commission.

While his work as a motor carrier officer was interesting, one of the most memorable stories in his career involves dressing up like a priest.

While serving as the police chief in Mills Township, Cole was called to assist with a hostage situation near Rose City, where a gunman was holding a 5-year-old at gunpoint in a home.

“When I got there, they weren’t sure what to do or how to gain entry,” Cole explained. “I had a priest friend of mine who lived nearby and I went to him and said, ‘I need to borrow your priest uniform.’”

He returned to the scene and the gunman allowed him inside. Cole talked scriptures with the man, and when he saw an opportunity, Cole disarmed the gunman.

For his actions, Cole received the Silver Star for Bravery.

Reed City Police Chief Chuck Davis considers Cole an exemplary colleague and friend, and said his departure from the force will leave a void.

Cole brought stability to the department, mentoring the younger officers, and truly believed in taking care of the residents of Reed City, Davis said.

“You don’t get the knowledge of a sergeant that I’ve had for many years,” he said. “He’s got a lot of experience. We’re going to miss him.”

In his retirement, Cole doesn’t have many plans, but is looking forward to spending time with his wife of 44 years, Sandra.

“I’m just going to kick back and relax for a few days, maybe take the wife out dancing since we haven’t don’t that in a while,” he smiled. “This is an adjustment for both of us, but I’m looking forward to this new stage in my life.”