Community honors Benny Napoleon for second day at Detroit visitation
Detroit — Mourners continued saying goodbye Tuesday to Benny Napoleon, who headed two of Michigan's largest law enforcement agencies in a career that spanned more than 40 years.
Visitation is from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday in Greater Grace Temple on Seven Mile, following Monday's visitation in the Swanson Funeral Home on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
As was the case Monday, there were dozens of mourners waiting in line outside the church Tuesday before the doors opened.
Among them: Detroit resident Joe Blair, who said he waited in the queue for about a half-hour before church ushers opened the doors.
“A life well-lived,” he said when asked about Napoleon. “I knew him through his brother (Hilton Napoleon.) We played golf together.
”Benny was a great man, and I’m finding out more about him now, through all the stories people are telling,” Blair said.
Police officers from agencies across Michigan were present, including the Westland Police Honor Guard, whose members served as ushers inside the church.
After the early line dissipated, dozens of people continued trickling in to view Napoleon, who lay in a casket in the spacious church lobby.
Rhonda Douglas of West Bloomfield was among the mourners. She said she was classmates with Napoleon at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, and later knew him when they served together as Detroit police officers.
”I knew him before he became chief and he was a great police officer, and then he was a wonderful chief,” said Douglas, who teaches a youth class at Greater Grace Temple.
”When he was chief, I went on maternity leave, and they give you six months,” Douglas said. “I wanted more time off to spend with my baby, and (Napoleon) gave me another six months off.
”I knew Benny Napoleon as a great friend; I knew him as a great classmate; and I knew him as a great boss,” said Douglas, an educator who spent 15 years on Detroit’s police force.
”This is still surreal,” she said. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Detroit resident Ethel Thomas said she didn’t know Napoleon personally but wanted to pay her respects Tuesday anyway.
”He just always seemed so upbeat; he was always smiling,” she said. “He did some great things for Detroit.”