Saturday, May 15, 2004
Bagpiper joins Lodi Police Honor Guard
He speaks five languages. He has two bachelors degrees, two masters degrees and a doctorate.
He owns seven sets of bagpipes.
Raphael Pazo Jr., whose business card alone sparks intrigue with its multiple languages
and list of services, recently joined the Lodi Police Honor Guard. He's the only bagpiping Honor Guard member in San Joaquin
County, and there are only a handful throughout the state.
"It just adds so much to what we're trying to do -- to pay a level of respect to an individual,"
said Lodi police Sgt. Bill Barry, a member of the Honor Guard.
The Honor Guard pays tribute to officers killed in the
line of duty and also attends various ceremonies, such as the opening of the new police building.
When the building
opened, Pazo asked if the department was interested in having a bagpiper. They invited him to join the Honor Guard, and Pazo
then went through the same background check that every police officer undergoes before joining the department, Police Chief
Jerry Adams said.
"A bagpiper is just a really special thing to hear," Adams said.
A man of many talents, Raphael Pazo is a new addition to the Lodi Police Department Honor Guard,
bringing bagpiping to the honorary post. (photo by Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)
For Pazo, bagpiping is one of many hobbies he has pursued over the years. Born in Puerto Rico, he moved
to San Francisco as a youth and began playing equestrian polo. It was at a match that he first heard the bagpipes.
asked the bagpiper to please let me try and he said, 'Oh this is a very difficult instrument; you'll never be able to play,'"
But he continued to beg, the bagpiper relented and within minutes, Pazo was making music. Two dozen
years later, he is still playing.
Playing the bagpipes wasn't enough, though. Pazo began to study the history of the
instrument, learning that they've been around for 5,300 years and play a part in the history of nearly every country in the
"I made it my quest to learn about different types of bagpipes, what the difference is and what influenced the
bagpipes," he said.
Pazo, who also sings and plays the violin, flute, drums and brass instruments, took his bagpiping
talents with him when he joined the U.S. Army, even playing when he was stationed in Israel.
During and after his military
service, Pazo obtained bachelors degrees in biology and art, masters degrees in language arts and management, and a doctorate
in international relations.
"I was trying to pursue a diplomatic career, but one thing led to another," he said.
realized that he wouldn't like being away from his wife and four children, so Pazo went back to another career: funeral homes.
a teenager, Pazo had worked in his uncle's casket factory after school and during summer vacations. His first college degree
was an associate in embalming from a San Francisco mortuary school.
Pazo worked for a time as a deputy coroner in San
Mateo County. When he wasn't doing coroner duties, he also lent his knowledge in ballistics and helped with disaster training.
recently, Pazo was employed as the director of Lodi Funeral Home, and he still thinks of the employees as family. He now works
at a Stockton mortuary and is also helping manage a mortuary in Lafayette while it undergoes management changes.
his spare time, he plays music. His whole family sings and plays music and between them, they have about 40 musical instruments
in their home music room, Pazo said.
Possibly best known for his bagpiping, Pazo plays throughout the state and in
Oregon, Washington and Nevada. He has also played for celebrities, he said, but contractual obligations prevent him from naming
And, when he's not doing that, he's offering his skills as an interpreter in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.
Lodi Police Honor Guard is another activity to add to his list, but for Pazo it is an honor.
"They are so serious --
so proud of their work. You can tell that they're dedicated," he said.