In the twilight of his life, James F. Mossey penned a memoir for his family at the urging of his wife, Diane. True to his form, its narrative jumped around, the memories firing in spurts: the time he got caught in a hurricane while in the Navy, when he provided security for a young rock band from Liverpool, and his nearly three decades leading the Crystal Police Department.
“He’d come up with these stories that were so interesting,” Diane Mossey said.
Mossey, 80, died Jan. 2, peacefully and with family nearby: a wife of 32 years, three adult stepchildren “inherited” during his second and ultimate marriage, and seven grandchildren.
Mossey’s story began in Indiana, where at a young age, he moved with his family to a housing project in South Bend. With the University of Notre Dame campus nearby, he sneaked into the college’s fieldhouse with friends on Sundays to play basketball. He later joined the Navy, where he eventually spent four years on a wooden minesweeper in the Mediterranean Sea — at one point battling a two-week hurricane.
“We bounced around like a cork,” he wrote.
Mossey eventually came to Minnesota while looking for work in the years after his Navy service. Dissatisfied with odd jobs, he began his career in law enforcement in the early 1960s at the Minneapolis Police Department. One night, four moptop singers from England needed a security detail as they exited the old Curtis Hotel amid a throng of screaming female fans.
“I believe the group’s name was the Beatles,” wrote Mossey, who had never heard of them at the time.
While working for the Minneapolis police, Mossey graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1971, majoring in criminal justice studies and serving as an adviser for other students. He also spent time on Minneapolis’ tactical squad, then called the “flying squad,” which included assignments like policing the 1967 riots in north Minneapolis.
His final post lasted 27 years: Crystal police chief. There, he hired one of Minnesota’s first civilian specialists to work with juvenile offenders. He also hired officers who went on to lead departments of their own, including Crystal’s current chief, Stephanie Revering.
“I considered him an old-school police officer,” Revering said. “He had an authoritative style.”
But rarely was that authority broadcast with anger. Morris R. Arvidson, who spent roughly three years as Mossey’s partner on the flying squad, said a rare clenched jaw was Mossey at his most heated. Retired since 1984, Arvidson is still touched by Mossey’s request to work with him.
“For someone to accept you like that as a partner … it’s not taken lightly,” Arvidson said.
Mossey’s stepson, Jon Kingsbury, is now a Minneapolis police lieutenant. Kingsbury said his stepfather didn’t intentionally inspire his career path but served as a sound source of advice as he made his way through school and his early years on the force. One of his fondest memories is of Mossey buying tickets to the first two rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament at the newly opened Metrodome, and watching games with him for eight hours a day.
“He always took care of the family first,” Kingsbury said.
One day, as Crystal police chief, Mossey fielded a call from a resident seeking help with prank phone callers. They hit it off, and three years later, in 1984, he married Diane Mossey. Jim Mossey retired in 2000, devoting much of his remaining years to family life at home — a dependable place to jot down everything he’d seen.
“He had been all over the world,” Diane Mossey said. “He knew where he wanted to be.”