Name: Mike Seidel
Occupation: Retired police officer
Where we found him: Walking his neighborhood
You walk your neighborhood a lot? Almost every day. I’ll lie to you and tell you it’s three miles, but my pedometer says two-point-eight. I carry a trash bag and clean up. But it’s for my benefit. If you’re 78 and you can walk almost three miles, that’s a good thing.
Did you grow up in Rochester? I was born in Mason City, Iowa. When I was 10, my dad moved to a farm in Taopi, Minnesota—between LeRoy and Adams on Highway 56. I lived there until I was 17, graduated, and then four days before I turned 18 I went to boot camp. It was July 18, 1959.
Which branch of the service? U.S. Navy. My older brother was in the Marines, and he said, “Don’t join the Marine Corps!” I told him I joined the Navy, and he said, “You did what?!” But if you’re in the service, you’re in the service. You’re doing some things for your country. I spent two years, nine months and 17 days. My father had lung cancer, so I got out a couple months early to help my dad farm 500 acres, which was a lot in 1961.
How long did you stay on the farm? Two years. Then he sold the farm and I had to get a real job. For the first winter, I worked for a guy who sold Surge Milking machines. Then I got a job at Crenlo. I ended up as a welder there. I worked there about four years, then a guy told me I was big and dumb so I oughtta take the test to be a cop. He was joking, but I always hoped he meant the big part.
Had you wanted to be a police officer? Not really. I was making $390 a month at Crenlo. This was a $50 raise to $440. It had to do with the $50. We had three kids and were pregnant with the fourth. I think there were 250 tested in ‘67 and I ended up seventh on the list. They hired nine people.
Any highlights? Barbara Bush. She was here to have her eyes checked at the Clinic, and we were assigned to follow her to the airport. She gets to her plane, and then she points to us on the other side of the fence and waves us over. I had no idea that later, I’d get a framed and signed picture of us talking with her.
How about “lowlights?” Jack Werner. He was shot on the job. There was a report of a wild driver, and Jack made the traffic stop. … The car pulled into Apache Mall and Jack got out to talk to the driver. He walked up to the car, and the passenger got out and blew him away across the hood of the car with a shotgun. Two days before that we were cutting up a deer together at my house. I could take you right to his grave now.
I hope better moments stand out, too. I was in crime prevention my last couple of years. My partner and I brought Crime Free Multi-Housing and National Night Out to Rochester. That’s a big deal. It’s huge now. I think that was a highlight of my career. … We went to every single third-grade class in Rochester and spent the week with them. I think I did more good for the world there than I did on the street—letting third graders know that policemen are real people. I enjoyed that time. I felt it was good for the city.
Any rebellious moments? I don’t know if I should tell you this story! When I was 17 years old, before I went in the Navy, I was going to the drive-in with [future wife] Jan and my sisters and a friend in Spring Valley. Just before we came off the Ostrander Road south of Spring Valley, I passed several cars and the front one was a deputy sheriff. He stopped me and gave me a ticket. I’m already enlisted in the Navy at the time, and I asked my dad what I should do. Back then, I couldn’t pay a fine until I was 18. They set my appearance date, when I could’ve paid the fine, for after I was in boot camp. My dad said, “Forget it. You’re going in the Navy.” My recruiter said the same thing.
I suspect that’s not the end of the story. I was home on leave and taking Jan to the Homecoming dance in my ’59 Chevy when the town cop came out to my car and said, “Remember that ticket?” A state trooper came up, and took me to the Spring Valley jail. It was below the liquor store. I spent the rest of the night in jail. The next morning, my parents came over and paid a $17.50 fine.
What did Jan do? She drove my ’59 Chevy! We were dating six months or so then.
How did you meet? On the school bus. Four months after we started dating, I went into the service. I mailed her a diamond engagement ring I bought on the Navy base in Norfolk, Virginia. I think it cost $35. I was only making about $60 a month!
How was your wedding? She came down on the train from Minneapolis, and we drove to Conway, South Carolina because we weren’t old enough to get married in Virginia. A clerk at the probate court married us. Then we drove right back to the base. She was pretty upset because 20 minutes after we married, I picked up a hitchhiker. He was in uniform!
Does it feel like it’s been 59 years? No, maybe 25. I don’t think you count the years. Are we always happy? No. That’s life. But if you said something nasty about her, I’d be pretty angry with you.
Tell me about an adventure? The 29 years as a police officer—I’d like to think those years were an adventure. I gave a lot of myself. There are 30 people who got to spend another day on this earth because of my doing CPR. I have a letter from a son whose dad coded at 39 years at the Rec Center at noon. My partner and I were doing CPR in the parking lot. … We got a letter from his son that started, “Dear Heroes.” If it hadn’t been for my partner and I, his father would’ve passed. I told my wife to hang that letter on my casket. That’s pretty special.