Dec. 3, 1948 – Feb. 15, 2014
Roderick Stuart, of Lockport, a Vietnam veteran and a decorated Lockport police officer, died Feb. 15 in Clarence after a long battle with cystic fibrosis. He was 65.
Mr. Stuart, whose twin sister was the late Mary Hare, grew up on a small farm in South Lockport, which began his lifelong love of farming, animals and tractors – both toy and real.
Mr. Stuart was drafted into the Army in 1969 and served as a sergeant and a mechanic, working on helicopters in the Vietnam War. Upon returning in 1970, he went on to earn an associate degree in criminal justice from Niagara County Community College and then attended the Erie County Police Academy, graduating in 1972. He immediately took a patrolman position in the Lockport Police Department.
In 1973, he was patrolling near Main and Pine streets in downtown Lockport when he and another officer spotted a young mother with two children near the Erie Barge Canal. The mother left her children and jumped into the canal. Mr. Stuart ran after her, shedding his weapon and jumping into the canal after her. They struggled, but he held her up with one arm and grabbed for his partner with the other, saving her life and earning him a commendation.
Acts of bravery continued throughout his career. In 1978, he single-handedly captured two escaped prisoners from the Niagara County Jail. In 1995, he was promoted to lieutenant, and he was promoted to captain in 2003. He earned a certificate of valor from the governor, the highest honor in the state, for rescuing a kidnapped man.
The Police Department has kept evidence from one rescue as training for new officers. A man was holding a woman hostage with two knives at her throat, and thinking quickly, Mr. Stuart grabbed the knives by the blades. In the process of freeing the woman, he bent the blades into a “u” shape and broke the handles.
Mr. Stuart was a certified breathalyzer operator, a firearms trainer certified by the FBI and the chief firearms officer for the Lockport Police Department. He was a stickler for following traffic laws, often pointing out to friends and family when they committed a minor traffic violation.
Mr. Stuart retired in 2005, allowing him more time to focus on his hobbies of small farming, restoring antique tractors and collecting toy tractors. He showed the antique tractors at tractor shows in New York and Ontario.
He once found a dilapidated Porsche tractor in a field in Ontario. He bought it, brought it to Lockport and restored it. For his niece’s wedding, he attached a seat to the back and drove her to the ceremony in her wedding dress.
Survivors include three brothers, Joseph, Douglas and Charles.
Services will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday in Prudden and Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee. St., Lockport.