It was the kind of send-off Robert Flores would have loved. Hundreds of friends, family, and former colleagues gathered Tuesday at Beatitudes of the Lord Catholic Church in La Mirada to say goodbye to Flores, or “Bob,” “Bobby,” or “Tinker” as some of the old-timers remember him.
A former Anaheim Police Department sergeant with 32 years in the department before his retirement in 2000, Flores died Friday, March 23. He was 74.
As people gathered at the ceremony, there was plenty of chatter, hugs, handshakes and, despite the solemnity of the occasion, laughter.
Just as Flores would have wanted it.
“He would have been overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed to see all these people,” said his wife, Cheryl Flores. “He would have been so humbled.”
When Flores, who died while in hospice care after a series of medical problems, talked about a funeral, his stepson, Eric Westbrook, said Flores suggested something small.
“It turned out to be something big,” Westbrook said as he held an urn containing Flores’ ashes.
“He’d be honored. He’d be shocked and surprised at the turnout,” Westbrook said.
Those who knew Flores weren’t shocked at all.
Flores was one of the most popular cops in the department.
As those attending the funeral filed into the church, they passed several posters with about 100 photos attached, most of which showed Flores in some sort of embrace.
As retired Sgt. Mike Hidalgo, a deacon, prepared to start the funeral service, he said, “Let’s keep it to a low roar.”
Although Hidalgo’s voice caught at times during the service, as did Thomas Flores’ as he read from the Bible, most of the service was a celebration of Flores’ zest for life, whether as a gardener, a workshop tinkerer, a runner, a biker, a tireless cop and, always, a storyteller.
Joe Vargas, a retired captain with the Anaheim Police Department, shared several “Bobby” stories with the attendees.
“Bobby has a million stories and he could spin yarns,” Vargas said.
Vargas elicited a laugh when he warned that if anyone who was part of a story felt they were mischaracterized, “Remember, I’m telling Bobby’s version.”
Vargas went on to regale the crowd with some of Flores’ more memorable chases, hijinks, and takedowns of criminals.
After the service, Westbrook chuckled, recalling his stepdad’s tales.
“All my life I heard all these stories,” he said.
For all the tales and laughter, Flores was also admired and respected as a cop’s cop and a professional.
“In my opinion, he was the epitome of a perfect police officer,” said Jimmie Kennedy, a retired chief of police for Anaheim who also spoke Tuesday. “I always admired him. I never saw anyone who could surpass Bobby.”
Kennedy provided an overview of Flores as a lifelong Orange County resident, junior college football star, and decorated officer.
He related a story about Flores and his friend, Max Lopez, enlisting in the Army together. Flores failed his physical, while Lopez passed and was killed in Vietnam. In honor of his friend, Flores named his oldest son Robert “Max” Flores.
Hidalgo and Vargas brought some religious perspective to the service. Hidalgo noted that at funerals the faithful are “forced to come face to face with death,” but noted it was a “thin veil” between life and the ever after.
Although Hidalgo said Flores packed much into his time on Earth, he is now “on God’s time.”
Adding to that, Vargas said while it was proper to mourn the loss of Flores, as a believer he knew that soon he would “share tales with Bobby again. It’s just a temporary separation. We will see each other again.”
Vargas said the other story he wanted to share was one Flores didn’t tell but was equally important. That story was of the love Vargas observed between Flores and his wife, Cheryl.
According to Vargas, the tinkerer Flores built hundreds of things for Cheryl and constantly doted on his wife.
During his remarks, Kennedy read from a letter by one of Flores’ comrades, retired lieutenant Ray Welch, who supplied an apt description of how Flores interacted with others.
“When we saw each other, we didn’t shake hands, we hugged,” Welch wrote. “He’d kiss me on the cheek and say, ‘I love you.’”