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This senior volunteer for the Fullerton PD just can’t say no to helping out

This senior volunteer for the Fullerton PD just can’t say no to helping out

This senior volunteer for the Fullerton PD just can’t say no to helping out

By Greg Hardesty

He’s going to get even.

Not that the genteel man whose backyard in Fullerton includes a garden with 18 varieties of tomatoes --- a grandfather of four who has been married for 53 years --- is going to do something mean.

But John Kunselman doesn’t like being in the spotlight.

And back in mid-April, his wife, Rita, and his colleagues at the Fullerton PD tricked him into showing up at a luncheon, where Kunselman, 77, was among 382 honorees at OneOC’s Spirit of Volunteerism Awards, Orange County’s largest and longest-running volunteer recognition event.

Kunselman, who retired in 1999 from the Chevron Oil Field Research Co. when the multinational energy giant shuttered its technology center in La Habra, was honored April 14 for his dedication to the Fullerton PD’s RSVP Program, a team of 26 currently active senior volunteers.

FPD Community Service Officer Juanita Juarez, who helps coordinate the RSVP program, came up with some story about a volunteer being needed at the Disneyland Hotel for some luncheon.

RSVPs do everything from code enforcement to handicap parking patrol to making inactive case callbacks, but they also work special events such as high school graduations, DUI checkpoints and city-sponsored  blood drives.

Kunselman immediately became suspicious when there was a seat at the luncheon for him.

“I came to the conclusion,” said the silver-haired native of Pennsylvania, “that I had been hoodwinked.”

That Kunselman deserved the recognition is clear.

Since 2008, when he began volunteering full time with RSVP, Kunselman has amassed 4,231 hours through March 31.

That’s good enough for third place on the list of most volunteer hours served for active and retired RSVP members since the program launched in 1995.

Eleanor Grainger is No. 2 with 4,385 hours, and in the top spot is Myron Roberts, with 7,264 hours.

Both Grainger and Roberts have been with RSVP several more years than Kunselman.

A total of 65 people have gone through the RSVP program since 1995 for a total value of service to the city of $1.267 million through March 31, 2015, according to numbers crunched by Kunselman.

“No” simply isn’t in his vocabulary, his Fullerton PD superiors and colleagues say.

Kunselman has become the “go-to” RSVP volunteer for all things requiring analysis, numbers and the creation of charts and plans, according to the nomination for his Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

“(He) is well versed in many aspects of the RSVP Program, and whenever a new project or request for assistance comes his way, John is always eager and willing to assist,” the nomination read.

“John’s dedication is unmatched and, in fact, he’s the type of volunteer that goes home and, on his own time, will create a comprehensive strategic plan in order to get the job done.

“He will come in early (and) stay late for the good of the community, the department and his fellow volunteers.”

Kunselman recently was instrumental in getting together a steering committee of volunteers in order to establish best practices for the RSVP program.

Asked about his dedication to the Fullerton PD, Kunselman says, “I do it because I want to do it, not because I’m expected to do it.”

Kunselman says he got the volunteer bug from a former boss at Chevron, Haywood A. “Hap” Payne, an operating division president who always stressed the importance of giving back to the community.

After retiring and playing a lot of bridge, Kunselman, in 2007, went through the FPD’s Citizen’s Police Academy.

“He was driving me crazy,” his wife joked.

“I was around the house too much,” Kunselman said.

He then started volunteering for RSVP in 2008, putting in a minimum of 16 hours per month.

Kunselman and his partner would perform such duties as making vacation checks and patrolling in a black-and-white PT Cruiser 

“Just seeing the car out there acts as a deterrent,” Kunselman said.

They also looked for intoxicated people at a farmer’s market than runs from April to October.

“One time we saw a lady and a man having sex on a blanket in a parking garage,” Kunselman says matter-of-factly. 

He now works twice a week at the FPD. 

On Tuesdays, Kunselman usually does vacation checks and monitors the PD’s Fullerton iWatch crime alert program. 

On Wednesdays, he spends some of his time helping out FPD Crime Analyst Tamara Otley.

“I really appreciate John stepping in to assist me,” Otley said. “He’s been such a help distributing crime bulletins and summarizing cases, both of which are very important to Crime Analysis.”

Among the most eventful hours Kunselman has logged as an RSVP participant were on the evening of March 29, 2014, when a magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit La Habra.

The FPD watch commander that evening dispatched Kunselman and five other RSVP participants to control traffic.

Kunselman ended up pulling an all-nighter, working from about 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“He left me here alone at home all night,” Rita said.

Kunselman shrugs off any suggestion that what he does for the FPD, and the Fullerton community at large, is special.

“I do this in support of the police department so more officers can be on the street where they’re needed,” he said.