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Obituary: Guy Osborne, 69, set the standard for Pawleys Island PD

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Floats in the 2002 Pawleys Island Fourth of July Parade included Harry Potter, Star Wars “Attack of the Crabs” and some reflections of the 9/11 attacks. New to the celebration was Guy Osborne, who started work the day before as the town’s police chief.

After 32 years in law enforcement, he was leading a procession of pickup trucks and boat trailers around the island.

“He said he felt like a kid in a candy store,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “He had the biggest grin on his face.”

Osborne spent the next decade building up the department, which is the biggest and most visible part of local government in a town with under 100 residents and a summer population of 5,000. He died Saturday in Washington, Va., leading a boot camp exercise group on the Virginia Creeper bike trail. He was 69.

Pawleys police officers, most of whom have retired from other departments, remembered him as a mentor. “He was the perfect person at the perfect time for the town of Pawleys Island,” Otis said. “He had years of command experience, basically a professional police commander.”

But equally important, he said, Osborne understood Pawleys Island. Although he lived in Myrtle Beach, he formed an emotional bond with the island community, one that residents and visitors reciprocated.

Guy Osborne Jr. was born July 26, 1945, in Union, the son of Guy and Rebecca Osborne. He said he had worn a uniform since he was 11, starting out as a crossing guard and progressing to the Boy Scouts, the Army and the police.

Osborne had retired after 23 years with the Horry County Police. He was chief of investigations when he left. He then went to work investigating insurance fraud, but he wanted to keep up his law enforcement certification so he came to Pawleys Island looking for a part-time job. Before he could start, Chief Ron Chamberlain announced he was leaving and Otis asked Osborne to apply for the top job in what was then a two-man police department.

Osborne was reluctant to work for a small town. Otis promised that politics wouldn’t interfere. “They renewed my faith in small town government,” Osborne said in a 2012 interview.

His former colleague called him “Chief Brody,” after the chief of Amity Island in “Jaws.” But Osborne recalled that the best police work of his career was when he was a new cop walking a beat in Columbia. He knew the community and they knew him. That was his plan for Pawleys Island Police.

He brought his bike to the island, equipped with a small blue light, siren and saddle bags for equipment and ticket books. “The people should know the police officers and the police officers should know the people they serve,” Osborne said.

In 2010, Osborne went to the Pawleys Island Civic Association’s annual meeting to give property owners an update. He was surprised with the group’s Citizen of the Year award.

“Of all the places I’ve been, Pawleys Island has been the dearest,” he said, choking back tears. “I feel so much a part of this community.”

Traffic and property crime are the mainstays of police work on the island. But a year after becoming chief, Osborne was on the beach with his gun drawn facing a 39-year-old man with a knife. He had been called about a pickup truck blocking the Third Street beach access. When he arrived Midway Fire and Rescue workers told him there was a man on the beach bleeding from both wrists and holding a hunting knife.

There was a suicide note in the truck. The man refused Osborne’s orders to drop the knife. “I want you to shoot me,” the man said.

Osborne was positioned with his back to the bystanders. The man approached, then stabbed himself in the chest. Osborne rushed him and wrestled the knife away.

The man was from North Carolina and having marital problems. He just picked Pawleys Island at random.

“You can’t be complacent,” Osborne said.

During Osborne’s time as chief, Pawleys Island Police expanded to provide round-the-clock coverage with five officers. Matthew Elliott was the first one hired. He met Osborne running on the beach. Elliott, then 41, had been a coach and youth program director, but had no law enforcement experience.

“Guy really took a chance,” Elliott said. But it paid off. He graduated from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy at the top of his class and spent 10 years with the department before moving back to Pennsylvania with his family.

Not all his hirings worked out. Osborne said that in his long career “the most anguish came from an officer who only saw black, dark black and white. You have to see shades of gray.”

By the time the department was up to full strength, he calculated the four full-time and one part-time officers had over 100 years of accumulated experience.

“He was willing to take chances on people he believed in,” said Mike Fanning, the current police chief who was hired by Osborne in 2007. That included “crass Yankees” like himself, said Fanning, who spent 20 years with the NYPD. “He was an inspiration to everybody down here.”

Sgt. Clay Naar is the town’s longest-serving officer. He and Osborne and a Jeep Cherokee were the entire police department in 2002.

“He was the salt of the earth,” Naar said. “He was always there for you.”

And he was “multi-talented,” Naar said, recalling the time he came into the office with a CD of gospel music that he had written and recorded.

He combined a talent for fitness and leadership to start a series of exercise “boot camps.” They started in 1997 after the Horry County Public Safety department opened its own gym. He was going to be a trainer, but found it too boring.

“It’s all a mental thing,” Osborne said in 2005 when he started holding the camps in the Pawleys Island area. He varied the locations but rarely the time: 5 a.m.

He was “Chief Big Daddy” to participants, a source of encouragement and inspiration in spite of his claim to be “merciless.” At the end of a four-week session, the participants would enter a race or take a bike trip. “The hardest thing about running the race is showing up,” he told the class.

When he announced plans to retire in 2012, Osborne said he had considered turning the camps into a franchise. Instead, he returned to the private investigations work he had left off a decade earlier. “I’m never going to retire,” he said.

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Betty Osborne; a son, Scott Osborne (Torie Waddell) of Conway; daughter Rebecca Osborne of Myrtle Beach; grandsons, Dylan Osborne and Justin O’Shields; granddaughter, Brookelyn Postlewait; sisters, Hassie Mae Vaughn of Union, Brenda Dubnik of Maryland; brothers, James Osborne of Union and Tommy “Oz” Osborne of Maryland.

Another daughter, Rhonda “Sissy” O’Shields, and a granddaughter, Stacey “Popie” O’Shields, died before him.

Funeral services were Wednesday at Christ United Church. Burial was in Hillcrest Cemetery.

There is a guest book at goldfinchfuneralhome.com.

Osborne said that for 19 of his 23 years in Horry County he didn’t know there was a place called Pawleys Island. “After the first six months, I knew I was where I needed to be,” he said. “The bad thing is the other 30 years were wasted somewhere else.”

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