Walter Biesiada, 69, Chicago Police Officer and activist,
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL firstname.lastname@example.org/Twitter @suntimesobits March 27, 2013 7:42PM
Chicago Police officer, Walter Bieciada about 1985 when he was a patrolman working beach patrol on his 3-wheeler police motorbike at Oak Street Beach.
Updated: April 29, 2013 12:10PM
Walter E. Biesiada combined a showman’s flair with a cop’s intuition.
He was part solid detective and part chivalrous knight, with a dash of circus ringmaster.
As a teenaged hotrodder, he went to the old Meigs Field airport and filled gas cans with jet fuel to try and make his ’52 Olds go really, really fast. (It really, really didn’t work.)
When his birth daughter, Deborah Schiesl, reunited with him 25 years after being placed for adoption, the proud dad took her to his favorite watering hole to show her off to his buddies — and hand out “It’s a Girl!” cigars. (A fellow officer joked: “They grow up so fast.”)
And when the officers he represented in the old Confederation of Police (COP) worked overtime without getting paid, he found a way to get the attention of Mayor Richard J. Daley, according to his longtime companion, Ro Sila. Mr. Biesiada brought two African-American officers to the mayor’s office and told Daley their names were going to be plastered all over the news media — because Biesiada planned to use a state anti-slavery statute to wrest their overtime pay from the city.
The money appeared in police paychecks without him having to carry through on his threat, Sila said.
Mr. Biesiada, who worked for the Chicago Police Department from 1965 to 1997, died last month of heart disease at his home in Normal, Ill. He was 69. He worked mainly as an officer in the 18th District and as an Area 5 detective, and also taught at the Police Academy.
He represented thousands of Chicago officers as their treasurer in the COP, before the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) was voted in as the police union. “Walt always knew that his union activism — and Chicago politics — meant he wouldn’t be promoted,” Ro Sila said.
He was a knight of the streets, said retired Officer Juan “Marty” Martinez, who worked with him in the 18th District. “All of a sudden, you see Wally pull over, and we’d get out and help some lady change her flat tire,” he said. “We used to always say if there’s a way of fixing something mechanical, Wally would have it [the tools] in the trunk.”
When his clothes grew slightly worn, Mr. Biesiada laundered them and kept them in the trunk of his squad car, so he could give them to homeless people. “He’d be out there like somebody out there on Maxwell Street,” his companion said. “He’d hand out socks and T-shirts; pants, shoes.”
When a man filed a police report saying someone stole his dog house, he just wanted a record for his insurance company. But when he looked at the document Mr. Biesiada wrote up, he realized the detective had had a little fun. It was close to Christmas. Mr. Biesiada reported the victim’s son gave the dog house to a fat man who was looking for someplace to shelter his eight little reindeer.
His street sense led to many burglary arrests, Martinez said. After checking out an alarm at a business, Mr. Biesiada always gave the place one more inspection. “He would say, ‘Let’s look at the windows again. I gotta bad feeling somebody is in there.’ ’’
“And sure enough, we’d look again, and there’d be a guy crawling on top of boxes. We’d just nail him as he came out the door.”
Mr. Biesiada attended Tuley High. His father was an orphan, and the family didn’t have a lot of money. They fished to put food on the table, Ro Sila said.
As an adult, he loved fishing at his Wisconsin cabin. He had a series of boats, all known as “Blackbird,” that he painted black. Some nights, when he and Ro sat in their boat in the middle of their lake, the Northern Lights shone around them like a shimmering curtain.
When he was ready to sell the cabin, he painted it “Pepto Bismol pink,” Sila said. That might sound like poor staging for a sale. But a neighbor bought the cabin extra quickly--to knock it down. “It worked,” Sila said. “He was an extremely good strategist.”
She called him Bear. They had a Sheltie mix from the Anti-Cruelty Society that they named Pepper. The dog loved Mr. Biesiasda so much, she knocked him down when she greeted him.
Mr. Biesiada is also survived by two grandchildren and his sister, Patricia Daffara. A memorial is being planned for this summer. Friends can email Walt4900@aol.com for information.
When Deborah Schiesl connected with him and drove to his cabin to meet her birth father for the first time, she was nervous. That ended when he opened the door.
“We were wearing the same T-shirt--wolf T-shirts,” she said. “We’re looking at the shirts, and we’re kind of giggling.”