Known for his commitment to serving the Aberdeen community, former Aberdeen Police Chief Robert Torgerson passed away Saturday morning in Tuscon, Ariz., where he and his wife Nora LeBlanc moved after his retirement. Torgerson, who often went by Bob, was 65, and retired in July 2017 after 13 years as chief in Aberdeen.
According to Torgerson’s daughter, Rose Torgerson, he suffered from a blood-related infection that sent him to the hospital a week ago. He was doing better for a brief time, she said, before the infection began worsening quickly.
Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said he remembered Torgerson fondly from the 13 years they worked together, and recalled seeing Torgerson in good health at a retirement party a couple weeks ago for Deputy Chief Dave Timmons where he joked that Scott should consider retiring as well.
“He jokingly told me that there was life after law enforcement, and it’s just sad his retirement was tragically cut short, and that he didn’t get a chance to enjoy it and his family in the way he hoped,” said Scott.
Rose remembered her dad for his significant work outside of law enforcement, working at United Way of Grays Harbor, Coastal Community Action Program, and nationally for the Red Cross when he helped following disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. He would also train and teach classes for first aid and CPR as part of his work, Rose said. She added that Torgerson would help people struggling on the streets, sometimes bringing a friend who was struggling or homeless in for a meal or to live in the family’s spare bedroom.
“The joke was always that my parents were always raising someone, whoever needed the spare bedroom,” said Rose. “Every holiday meal, there was always someone from somewhere. He’d say, ‘Oh, here’s Andrew, he was having a hard time at home.’”
She mentioned one case where Torgerson took a woman in for six months before she got a job at the police department as a dispatcher.
He grew up in Minnesota, and during the Vietnam War, Torgerson served in the U.S. Air Force, and was a Purple Heart recipient.
Rose, 36, is one of Torgerson’s three children, the other two being Benjamin, 38, and Ingrid, 34. Torgerson was married for nearly 40 years. He and Nora first met in a restaurant in Minnesota, where she was a waitress, before getting married less than a year later. Rose recalled how strong a relationship the two had, and recalled a story about when her mom became interested in sailing, so Torgerson bought a rickety boat and placed it on their front lawn for her to find.
He got his first police officer job in Nichols, Iowa, before also working as a detective and then a captain, Rose said. She added that Torgerson created one of Iowa’s first Domestic Assault Response Teams (DART).
Upon moving to Aberdeen, one highlight of his work was establishing the “Yellow Brick Road” system for tsunamis, in which he had signs placed around Aberdeen to lead people on foot to safe zones. Rose described her father as being very community-oriented, serving on the Grays Harbor Community Hospital Board and handing out diplomas as part of his work on school boards.
Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said he remembers visiting Torgerson’s home for a holiday event several years ago, and said it was “a wonderfully different personal perspective of Bob, his wife and his family.”
“I am sure he will be greatly missed,” said Myers.
Aberdeen Police Chief Steve Shumate said he was shocked after hearing about Torgerson’s passing Saturday morning, saying that he thought Torgerson was in good health at Timmons’ retirement party. Torgerson had moved to Tucson to be with his daughter and grandchildren.
In a message, Rose said while she is saddened by her father’s passing, she’s also proud of the influence he had on her.
“My mom has lost the love of her life and, we’re broken, but (we) will find strength because he taught us how to … he was a force for good in this world I am so proud to be his daughter, we are so proud to be his family, and to continue in his spirit of selfless service.”