PORTSMOUTH†ó Two police officers joined local seniors for their daily happy hour, when wine was served with crab cakes and repartee ranged from serious, to side-splitting.
Detective Rochelle Navelski and Capt. Mark Newport were Wednesday guests at the Wentworth Senior Living home happy hour, when residents gather in the lobby at 4 p.m. for wine, appetizers and socializing.
Navelski kicked off the conversation with a dozen senior residents by introducing herself as the community policing officer who leads police efforts to build good relationships. She asked the seniors, the oldest being 97, if they ever had contact with police, "good or bad." One said when he was about 10, he and friends went to their local police station, asked to be locked up and were for a few minutes. He said they learned they did not want to ever go back to jail.
Another senior mentioned knowing retired Portsmouth officer Kevin Semprini, known as "Officer Friendly." Navelski said if Semprini was there at the time, the crab cakes would be gone because, "he's like a seagull." She then shared a story about how Semprini was once pranked by his fellow officers who drove past him on a detail and handed him a container he thought was filled with buffalo chicken wings. The container was actually filled with leftover chicken bones and the other officers hid, watched Semprini open the container and had a good laugh seeing his reaction, Navelksi said.
Reaction from the seniors, after hearing her story, was proof they found it a tale worth sharing.
Christina Lyle, part of the Wentworth "enrichment team," tended bar, refilled glasses and served appetizers. Wentworth employee Lindsey Joy said the group had worked out earlier in the day to "bumpin'" music, during "chair Zumba."
Newport joked, "Chair Zumba? That's my kind of Zumba."
The seniors also discussed serious matters with the officers, including about scams targeting elders. One said her friend with Alzheimer's disease had been scammed out of thousands of dollars. Another said she received a call that was the prevalent "grandparent scam," but she was informed enough to know it was a con.
The Wentworth residents also asked to hear from the officers about their backgrounds.
Newport said he graduated from the University of New Hampshire and initially thought he wanted to work for federal law enforcement, "to chase after America's most wanted." During an internship with Portsmouth police he worked on a drug bust, Newport said, he changed his mind and has worked for the local department for the past 24 years.
"I could retire, but I love it here," said Newport, who explained he's worked in narcotics, as a hostage negotiator and now as captain of patrol and detectives.
"It's been a good ride," added Newport, who told the seniors he most enjoys being out in the community and that every day is different.
Navelski told her story about being born and raised in Portsmouth and, as a teen, having frequent contacts with police, because she was getting into trouble. Because a couple of Portsmouth officers helped her, she said, she chose a law enforcement career, first with the Army, then as a corrections officer and lastly with Portsmouth police for the past 17 years.
After residents shared their backgrounds and compared the numbers of their great grandchildren, Navelski passed out Portsmouth police trading cards, badges and tattoos for the seniors to share with their families.
Olivia Korpi, assistant vice president of marketing and admissions for Wentworth, said the nonprofit senior home is "focused on enriching the lives of our residents."†
"That means bringing them out beyond our four walls to enjoy the greater community of Portsmouth, as well as bringing the outside community into WSL like with the 'Talk with a Cop' series," she said. "We find that people do not get out of bed each day to get their meds or receive care. They get out of bed because they feel a sense of purpose and dedication in their community. Thatís what we try to foster here for all of our residents."