Charles Skalaski, who was sworn in as a Coral Gables police officer in 1949 and almost four decades later was named the department’s chief, died Nov. 8 of Parkinson’s disease .
He was 85.
“He was the great spirit of Coral Gables. I remember him for his spirit and enthusiasm,” said former Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick. “The chief made people feel he was close to the community.”
Skalaski was born March 1, 1927 in Bridgeton, N.J. He came to the University of Miami where he played in the 1946 Orange Bowl — which the Canes won against Holy Cross.
For seven years, Officer Skalaski taught driver’s education and coached at Gulliver Academy in his spare time.
Sometimes, when he showed up for roll call at the police department, he was still wearing his Gulliver uniform and a whistle around his neck.
“The only thing he didn’t have was his clipboard,” said James Butler, a former chief with the Coral Gables Police Department.
In 1955, Skalaski was honored by the Coral Gables Junior Chamber of Commerce for coaching kids in Little League football, baseball, basketball and bicycle derby.
“He loved sports and kids, he was that type of guy,’’ said Robert Faidley, who was sworn in as an officer the same day as Skalaski. “He wanted to be around what he loved to do.”
In the 1960s, he was promoted first to sergeant, and later to lieutenant. He also continued to supervise organized sports at the Coral Gables Youth Center.
In the 1970s, he attended the 92nd session of the FBI National Academy.
In 1983 he was promoted to the rank of major, and on March 1, 1988 — his 61st birthday — Skalaski was sworn in as chief of police.
“He had a coach’s mentality about teamwork,” said Butler. “He managed the department like a coach on a football field.”
After retiring from the police department in 1995, Skalaski ran for mayor, but lost against Raul Valdes-Fauli.
“At that point he was Mr. Coral Gables and never planned on leaving. It was always his dream,” said Fay Skalaski, his wife of 25 years. “He just had perseverance and a hard work ethic. He loved the city of Coral Gables. He loved everything about life and lived it the way he wanted to.”
In addition to his wife, Skalaski is survived by daughters Donna Marie Schofield and Carolyn Briggs and sons William Skalaski and Charlie Skalaski.
The funeral services will be held at a later date in Vero Beach.
Skalaski was born March 1, 1927 in Bridgeton, N.J. He passed away November 8 in Lighthouse Point.
In 1945, Skalaski moved to Florida when he received a football scholarship to the University of Miami, playing the tight end position.
A game that Skalaski wore as a badge was on New Years Day in 1946. Skalaski helped bring UM to victory when they played against the College of Holy Cross for the Orange Bowl.
His son, Charlie Skalaski, kept football in the family. He played for the University of Florida and is now assistant coaches for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Skalaski continued his love for football well after he joined the Coral Gables Police Department. On October 13, 1949, Skalaski was sworn in as a Coral Gables police officer alongside with Robert Faidley.
With 44 years dedicated to the Coral Gables Police Department, Skalaski constantly contributed to the community through organized sports.