Herbert Vincent Sevier, a retired Baltimore County police officer who received a commendation for his role in capturing a bank robber, died of pulmonary failure Sept. 5 at Franklin Square Hospital Center. The Essex resident was 79.
Born in Baltimore County, he attended a one-room elementary school in Back River and later Kenwood High School. He received a GED.
Mr. Sevier worked at his family's Shell gas station on Back River Neck Road from 1947 to 1955. He then joined the Navy and was a diesel mechanic on the destroyer tender USS Grand Canyon.
After his military service, he bought an Amoco gas station on the corner of Back River Neck Road and Hopewell Avenue and operated it from 1957 to 1961.
He joined the Baltimore County police force in 1961 and retired in 1984. He walked a beat in Parkville and later worked the eastern traffic division of Baltimore County. He received a departmental certificate of commendation for "outstanding service" in a 1969 bank robbery.
Family members said that while on patrol he pulled over a bank robber who had taken a hostage under a North Point Road underpass.
"My grandfather approached on the driver's side, and the other officer snuck up from the passenger side," said his grandson, Justin Sevier of Middle River. "The robber stuck his gun in my grandfather's face and while he was distracted, the other officer shot the man through the passenger window, past the hostage. Then they apprehended the suspect" and saved the hostage.
Mr. Sevier was also involved in a 1971 a stakeout with members of the FBI. While off duty, he saw a tractor-trailer heading down Back River Neck Road and got in his cruiser to investigate. He discovered suspects unloading merchandise into abandoned shacks and called in a report on a police radio, helping to apprehend an interstate tractor-trailer theft ring, family members said.
Family members said Mr. Sevier would take drunken drivers home when he pulled them over, rather than arrest them. The next day he would drive them back to their cars. "It wasn't all about arresting and ticketing — he really wanted to help people," said his daughter, Debbie Sevier of Chase.
"Underneath his gruff exterior was a man who would do just about anything to help a friend in need," his grandson said. "Many people over the years came to him for help with their car, their boat, their tractor and even airplanes. He could fix just about anything with an engine. I was never handy with a wrench, but the times I spent getting greasy, busting knuckles and cursing underneath a car with my grandfather are some of my fondest memories growing up."
Justin Sevier described his grandfather as "the image of Clint Eastwood's character in 'Gran Torino,'" who was "old man tough."
"I remember him cutting off the tip of his thumb when I was a kid," his grandson said. "He came into the house for some duct tape, taped it back on and went back out to finish the project he was working on. Even after lung cancer claimed 90 percent of his lung capacity, he still refused to let anyone else cut his grass. He just strapped the oxygen tank to the back of the tractor and had at it.
"He was opinionated and told it how he saw it. You may not have agreed with what he had to say, but you listened to him and respected him for speaking his mind," his grandson said.
"If something broke, he fixed it. If something needed to be built, he built it. There were never any how to books or manuals; he just figured things out," Justin Sevier said.
Family members said Mr. Sevier raced ice boats, rode motorcycles, flew airplanes and drove a 1978 El Camino that he had painted two-tone blue with metallic flake.
After retiring from the Police Department, he worked full time at Markley's Marina and later at Anchor Bay Marina in Dundalk on Bear Creek until 1997.
He spent time with his friends at Essex Skypark flying and working on airplanes. He also fed and tended the feral cats that lived near the airport. He enjoyed watching NASCAR races and going fishing.
Services are private.
In addition to his daughter and grandson, survivors include his wife of 57 years, Elva Kaiser. A son, Herbert V. Sevier Jr., died in January.