Submitted by Casey Carver
James “Jim” Fontaine, who served almost 30 years over two different career paths at the Long Beach Police Department, died in Long Beach on March 20. He was 82 years old.
Carl Vaughn, an old friend who worked with Jim for many years in the Long Beach jail, said of his friend upon his retirement from the police department in December of 2001: “Jim will be remembered many different ways by many people. To me, he will always be remembered as truthful, loyal and a Christian gentleman. My prayer is that Jim and Irene have a long and happy retirement.” Jim’s wife of over 45 years passed away in June, 2007.
Vaughn had worked as a civilian jail security officer with Jim during Jim’s second career with the police department. Jim has been honored in the past for his military and police careers.
“When World War II began, Jim was 14 years old, and he tried to join the Navy from his home in San Diego, where he was born,” said Vaughn. “Jim fibbed about his age and joined the Merchant Marines. He served with valor aboard the Kit Carson, an ammo ship, and saw combat during the war. After the war, he was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. This is the equivalent of the military Congressional Medal of Honor.” Jim was very proud of his service during the war, and joined the U.S. Army and served honorably during the Korean Conflict.
After being honorably discharged from the Army, he joined the Long Beach Police Department on October 14, 1957. As a patrol officer, Jim served in many assignments.
On March 27, 1968, Jim and fellow police officer Wayne A. Clark were on patrol and confronted an enemy, an incident which changed their careers. Clark single-handedly confronted and exchanged gunfire with two armed robbery suspects. He then broadcast their description and gave pursuit to assist Jim in their subsequent capture. Jim single-handedly confronted the two suspects after hearing their description over the police radio. Knowing the suspects had already engaged in gunfire with another officer, he held the suspects until the arrival of Clark, thus, making their capture possible.
By 1971, Jim and his wife Irene decided to leave Long Beach and purchase a resort in the “Lake of the Ozarks” in Missouri near Irene’s birthplace. They ran the resort while Jim worked as a deputy sheriff for the county where they lived. By 1985, they decided to return to Long Beach to be near friends and family, and Jim again joined the police department as a uniformed civilian jail security officer. This service totaled over 44 years in police work.
During his second tenure, Jim helped many younger officers learn how to deal with criminals with a sense of humor. He was loud, funny, outgoing, and always in charge. I remember him joking with prisoners, shouting “You had better do what I say, or I’m going to call my wife on the phone, and she will come down here and beat you up!” Everyone would laugh and follow his direction without any resistance. Jim was a great role model to us all and he is greatly missed. He was “larger than life” and made our town a little bit safer because of his spirit.
Jim was married to his wife Irene over 45 years. They had two children and five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A great-grandson will enter the Air Force this year and continue the family tradition of service to our country.
Jim Fontaine’s ashes will be buried at a ceremony alongside his wife at the Riverside National Cemetery, 22495 Van Buren Blvd., on Monday, April 12 at 11:45am. The service is at “Staging Four” in the cemetery. All friends are welcome to attend.
Casey Carver is a retired jail supervisor who worked with Jim Fontaine.