PRINCETON — Long-time area law enforcement officer Danny Sissel of Princeton is being remembered for his sense of humor, caring attitude and his love of family, law enforcement, the military and motorcycles.
Sissel died Saturday at the age of 63 following an extended illness.
On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he met Sissel in 1976 when they were both new in law enforcement.
“I knew Danny to be very professional. He had a wonderful intellect and brought that intelligence and professionalism to the table,” Thompson said. “Danny’s history in the military, no doubt, contributed a lot to his demeanor in law enforcement. He was always well dressed and ready to do the job. He was good with the public. He wasn’t the type of person who always wanted to write a ticket. He was understanding and caring.”
Sissel was also a good personal friend and a faithful member of a Wednesday morning breakfast group which Thompson started several years ago with Gary Swanson and Ray Pierson.
“Danny was a wonderful friend,” Thompson said. “He was always a wonderful source of entertainment and was great with trivia, which was a sign of his sharp mind.”
Terry Madsen of Princeton said he had known Sissel for a long time but became close to him when Madsen joined the Wednesday morning group a couple years ago. Both Sissel and Madsen liked the word puzzles on the Good Morning Princeton sheets on the restaurant table and would see who could finish it first, Madsen said.
“Danny always had something light to say, something fun,” Madsen said. “He was proud of his police service, proud of his military service, and proud of his family.”
Even when Sissel went through his illness, he would get back to the Wednesday group as quick as he could, Madsen said. Sometimes Sissel’s wife, Colleen, would bring him, or a daughter and grandkids.
Madsen said the one thing Sissel didn’t talk about was his illness. If he was asked a question, he would answer it, but he didn’t dwell on it.
Madsen and Thompson went recently to see Sissel in a Peoria hospital. Even then, Sissel was upbeat, telling jokes, and glad to see them, Madsen said.
“I was really saddened when I heard about Danny,” Madsen said. “He was the kind of guy who was always there to help people. I feel like I’ve really lost a good friend.”
For Gary Swanson of Princeton, his friendship with Sissel went back to their high school days. They both had a passion for fancy cars and motorcycles, though Sissel was more meticulous than he was with his cars, Swanson said.
As law enforcement officers, they enjoyed a professional relationship for many years but kept up their personnel friendship. They both got married and had children, sharing a lot of family time together. They also shared a love of Harley Davidson motorcycles, with Sissel proud of his rides to Memphis to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“Danny’s time for riding was short, but he made the best of it,” Swanson said. “Danny’s character was honest, passionate and sincere. He had a great sense of humor. I respected him for his dedication and love of family and friends.
“I look at Danny as a very successful man. His life may have been short, but it was so fulfilling. I feel over a lifetime, a person can count their good friends on their fingers, and Danny was one of those friends.”
Princeton Police Chief Tom Root, who met first met Sissel when Root became police chief in 2000, described Sissel as the kind of person you immediately liked.
“Aside from working together, Danny and I shared a bond as Vietnam veterans, having served the same years. Danny had such a huge heart for everyone. Even if you were a complete stranger and needed help, Danny was always there to help out,” Root said. “His humor was what people remember most. He always had a joke or made comments to any conversation taking place, especially at our Wednesday morning coffee meeting for the last 10 years.”
Root said he and Sissel became much closer friends after Sissel retired and the two went on several motorcycle trips together. Sissel also had a passion for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, of which he was a participating rider of the annual St. Jude’s ride.
“Danny loved talking and seeing the children at the hospital in Memphis, and always put a smile on the children’s faces,” Root said. “Danny was also a huge patriot. He attended many events and loved the Flags of Freedom. I will always remember his smile and his bear hug.”
Another thing which he will always remember about Sissel is the fact it seemed he knew or was related in some way to everyone, Root said.
“If you ever needed information on someone, just call Danny,” Root said. “Danny loved life and his family. He was always showing photos of his kids and grandkids. He somehow mastered his new Apple I phone and was always taking pictures and posting on Facebook. Go figure, this is the same guy who didn’t want to do police reports on computers, did not like the technology!”
Sissel may be gone, but he won’t be forgotten, Root said.
“Whenever I think of Princeton, seeing the Flags of Freedom, or hear the roar of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, I will always think of my friend Danny,” Root said. “He will forever be missed as my dearest friend. Thanks Danny, for letting me be a part of your life.”
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