Cip Siete, Elgin's pioneer Hispanic police officer, dies at 86

  • Cip Siete, shown here in 2002 working Kane County courthouse security, died Friday in his native Elgin. He was the city's first Hispanic police officer.

      Cip Siete, shown here in 2002 working Kane County courthouse security, died Friday in his native Elgin. He was the city's first Hispanic police officer. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/25/2017 4:16 PM

Cipriano "Cip" Siete, Elgin's first Hispanic police officer and supervisor, was remembered for his high standards, dedication to service and kindness toward strangers.

Siete, 86, a native of Elgin, died Friday of congestive heart failure after a mini-stroke and symptoms of Parkinson's disease had debilitated him over the years, said his wife, Linda Siete. By the end, he had a hard time speaking and swallowing.

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"I think that really bothered him because Cip really liked to talk," she said.

Siete was hired in Elgin at age 27 in 1958. Being a pioneer sometimes was difficult, he told the Daily Herald in 2002. "A lot of times people were waiting to see if I would make a mistake," he said.

The proudest moment in his 23-year career was saving the life of a suicidal mother who'd ingested poison by giving her milk, he told Reflejos in 2001. A year later, the woman ran into him at a bowling alley and thanked him. "She made me feel 10 feet tall," he said.

Siete was one of 14 children whose parents died when he was about 13. He didn't have money to go to college, so he joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in New Mexico for four years, until he returned to Elgin.

"As a small boy, he would wave at police officers and they would never wave back. That haunted him for some reason," his wife said. "He made sure that if a kid waved at him, he always waved back. He always carried lollipops in his pocket, because he wanted to show that the police are good people. That was his mission."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Siete went out of his way to reach out to Hispanics, encouraging them to get involved in civic matters and even driving them to voting polls at election time, said retired federal judge Manny Barbosa.

Barbosa credited his career trajectory to Siete, who encouraged him to apply for a job in Kane County out of law school and predicted he'd be a judge some day.

"He was a very influential person in my life," Barbosa said.

Cip Siete retired as a sergeant in 1981 and worked as head of security for Sears at Spring Hill Mall until 1993 before joining the Kane County sheriff's office to work courthouse security. He retired in early 2005 after suffering a mini-stroke.

He was known for his acts of kindness, such as buying winter coats for the children of a Sears customer who was down on her luck, and ordering cakes from Herb's Bakery in Elgin to celebrate the birthdays of judges and lawyers, Linda Siete said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

His hobbies included golf, gardening -- especially tomatoes and jalapeños -- and watching Western films, and he was very active in Club Guadalupano of Elgin, which gave him its first community service award 40 years ago.

"He had a very strong personality," Linda Siete said, "and he did always try to look out for other people."

Survivors include children Rebecca Zimmermann, Dennis Siete and Stephanie Siete of Arizona; Cathy Siete of South Elgin; Alice Nevel of Garden Prairie, Illinois; Cip Siete Jr. of California; Sarah Siete of Elgin; Lindsay Jensen of Elgin; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Laird Funeral Home, 310 S. State St., Elgin. Funeral services are at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 272 Division St., Elgin.

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