The Schuylkill Township Police Association recently held a retirement party to honor long time officers Sgt. Cliff Barnett, Cpl. Robert Crabtree and Officer Cordell Castenova. The officers have more than 100 years of combined service and dedication to their country Schuylkill Twp and the Phoenixville area as a whole.
A dinner was held at the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation on Saturday September 28, 2013 to honor the officers. After dinner, the officers were each presented with a plaque and a police officer trophy bust from the Schuylkill Twp. Police Officers Assoc. The officers were also presented with plaques from the president of the Chester County Fraternal Order of Police, Butch Dutter.
The guests included many current and former officers from many surrounding departments, including Phoenixville, East and West Pikeland, and East Vincent, along with numerous family and friends.
Among the 120 guests present to show their thanks and appreciation were the Honorable Judge Theodore Michaels, Chief William Mossman of the Phoenixville Police Dept., Chief Shane Clark of the West Pikeland Police Department, and a contingent of board members from the FOP, including Chester County Lodge 11 President Butch Dutter.
Masters of Ceremonies for the event were Schuylkill Twp. officers Jim Hennessey and Jim Deoria.
The sentiment among all the officers present was that it was an honor and a privilege to work with the retiring Officers.
“It truly was an honor to work with all three of these guys,” said Officer. Jim Hennessey. “They were truly dedicated to their jobs and their community. They are already missed around the station and leave big shoes to fill. All of the officers in the department learned a lot from each of them.”
The event was sponsored by the Schuylkill Twp. Police Officers Association.
Cordell Castenova is a graduate of the Norristown Area School District. He began his career in law enforcement in 1977 as a corrections officer at the Montgomery County Prison.
In 1978 he joined the Montgomery County Sheriff’s department as a deputy sheriff. He worked as a crime prevention officer with the Pottstown Police Department from 1978 to 1980. He received his first job as a police officer with the Spring City Police Dept. in 1979, and joined the Schuylkill Twp. Police Dept in 1981.
He retired from the force in 2011 due to an injury sustained on the job.
Cordell was keeping the streets safe from drunk drivers before the MADD movement came to prominence. Otherwise, he would have been a multiple award winner early in his career.
Cordell was the first president of the Schuylkill Twp Police Officers Association, and was a long time Member of the Chester County FOP. He fought hard for the rights of all the officers.
Cordell is proud of many accomplishments throughout his career, but mentioned be proud of his investigation and arrest of a non-acquaintance sexual assault of a township teenager and his role in bringing down a large burglary ring operating in the tri county area.
He has an A.A.S. in Police science from MCCC and has advanced training in Criminal Justice from both West Chester and Penn State Universities.
He lost his beloved wife Linda to cancer in 2012.
Rob graduated from Phoenixville Area High School in June of 1976. After graduation he entered The United States Army in September of 1976. During his time in the service, Rob attended US Army Military Police School along with Department of Defense K9 training school.
During his stint in the Army, Rob spent a year in Korea and received the Army Commendation Medal. He also served as a patrolman at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Rob was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist 4 in 1979.
Rob attended Montgomery County Community College in the fall of 1979 for Criminal Justice. In 1980 he was hired as a part time patrolman in Schuylkill Township.
Rob attended the PA State Police Academy and graduated in March of 1981. He became a full time patrolman in June of 1981.
Rob met his wife Sandy in 1982- while on the job. They were married in November of 1984. Their first son Jon was born in 1989 and their second son Scott was born in 1991.
Rob was a volunteer firefighter and EMT at West End Fire Company #3 for many years. He also served as the assistant chief for a number of years before leaving the fire department to spend more time with his boys and their sports activities.
Rob volunteered his time at Phoenixville Youth Babe Ruth league as a volunteer coach. His longest time coaching was with the Major Dodgers the team that Jon and Scott played on. It was not unusual to see Rob out at Vic Marosek Park several times a week cutting the fields and taking care of the grounds.
As Jon and Scott continued their athletic careers, Rob could be found sitting in the stands cheering them on. Whether it was baseball, football or basketball, Rob rarely missed a game and managed his work schedule to work around Jon and Scott’s game schedules. This continued into their college years- traveling for basketball games and rugby matches.
Rob worked as a patrolman for over 22 years when he was promoted to Corporal in January 2003. He was a mentor many young officers over the years which provided him the opportunity to pass on his invaluable knowledge and on the job experiences.
During his time in Schuylkill Township Rob was a firearms instructor and served on the Chester County MIRT Team.
Rob received various commendations during his years of service. One in particular that stands out was from Chief Bill Mossman of the Phoenixville Police Dept. In April of 2009 while on routine patrol, Rob heard an explosion- he headed in the direction of the explosion where he discovered an injured worker from the borough sewer plant. The worker was severely burned and critically injured. Rob rendered first aid as other emergency responders arrived but would not approach the area due to the possibility of hazardous materials contamination. Rob along with two Phoenixville Police Officers determined that if they did not get the victim immediate medical attention at the hospital he may not survive so they put him in the patrol car and took him to the hospital.
Through the years many meals were ruined and interrupted by “calls”. Holidays were arranged around the “schedule” (his and Sandy’s both), but Rob always found ways to be with his family and not miss one single event that the boys participated in. He served his community well for over 33 years.
Cliff Barnett was born in the “old” Phoenixville hospital on November 17, 1947. He was raised in Phoenixville by parents Joe and Bea and has endured life-long torture and harassment by his “big-bro” Joe. Cliff was educated in the Phoenixville school district and graduated in 1966.
After graduation cliff enlisted in the USMC and served a tour of duty in Vietnam. Cliff was introduced to the police profession by his brother, who was a police sergeant in Lower Pottsgrove Township. Cliff was hired by Pottstown police department in 1970. He was trained in all aspects of law enforcement at the state police academy in Hershey, Pa.
Cliff’s ultimate goal was to work for his “hometown” police department. He served part-time in east Vincent Township, East Pikeland Township, West Pikeland Township, and Schuylkill Township before ultimately being hired full-time by Phoenixville Borough in 1977.
In May 1977, while working for East Vincent, he received a call that there was a sniper barricaded in the Pickering Run apartments and several Phoenixville police officers were pinned down by gunfire. Cliff and Detective Pat Gazzillo of Phoenixville gained access to the apartment directly beneath the sniper - made contact with him - convinced him to put down his weapons. For their heroic actions, cliff and pat were both awarded the borough of Phoenixville medal of valor and the congressman’s medal of valor by Congressman Schultz.
Cliff actively served the citizens of Phoenixville until October of 1984 when he was stabbed during an arrest. The suspect’s girlfriend attempted to stab him in the chest and abdomen with a buck knife. He received defensive stab wounds to both arms - severing ¾ of the ulnar nerve in his left arm. His protective vest was sliced - saving him from chest wounds. Damage to his left arm required three major surgeries and rehab over a five year period. Cliff was forced to retire from Phoenixville in 1989. Part of his left arm and left hand still remain numb today.
He continued in law enforcement working for several surrounding police departments at the same time, until 1995 when Chief Tommy Marchegiano gave him a “second chance” by offering him a full-time position with the Schuylkill Township Police Department. In July 1997 cliff was promoted to the rank of sergeant. In Schuylkill he served as range instructor, training officer and instructor for immediate action rapid deployment tactics. He enjoyed giving the annual safety talks with the children of magic memories daycare-and especially answering their questions!!
In December 2009 cliff suffered a heart attack after pursuing an armed robber on foot. He was hospitalized in Paoli and two stents were placed. During the recovery process other medical issues- caused by exposure to Agent Orange- surfaced, and Cliff has subsequently had both shoulders extensively reconstructed. Due to these medical conditions Cliff has had no alternative but to end his dedicated and active 38 years in law enforcement.
Over the years cliff has received hundreds of ‘thank-yous’ and acknowledgements from various police departments, community organizations, citizens and associates that he has helped throughout his career. He has earned ultimate respect and admiration by all of his colleagues and associates in the law enforcement circle. Cliff would never have asked his men to do anything that he himself wouldn’t do. He was always behind his men 100 percent.
The infromation above was by Schuylkill Twp. Officers Jim Hennessey .