NORWICH — "He was one of the good guys in the world – fair, easy to talk to and known as the guy who got the job done," reads a 2011 Evening Sun article remembering the dedication and service of former Chenango County Sheriff Joseph Benenati.
Benenati was known as a legend in the area, having served for five years in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, 24 years with the New York State Police, and 22 years as the Chenango County Sheriff.
In 1979, he was able to bring a one-time-only police academy to the City of Norwich, where former City of Norwich Police Department Officer and Chief Joseph Angelino, former City of Norwich Police Department Officer Joe Coe, and former Sheriff's Department Cadet, Greene Police Officer, and New York State Trooper Tim Hagen began their careers in law enforcement.
"The academy was always in Binghamton, and Joe Benenati had enough clout that he brought it to Norwich, one time only," Angelino said. "Also officers from Delaware County, Broome County, Otsego County, and Madison County all had to come to this academy. It was a big deal."
Upon his retirement from the New York State Police, Benenati was given an engraved Colt revolver commemorating his 24 years with the agency. In 1979, he gifted that pistol to his nephew, Joe Coe, upon his start at the new municipal academy.
"I started with the municipal police academy and I needed a weapon. And with that, he handed it down to me and said, you carry this with you while you’re in the academy. So that’s what I did," said Coe.
Now, 43 years later, Coe has passed that same pistol down to the next generation of law enforcement: Norwich native and New York State Trooper Ryan Hagen.
"I started with Norwich PD in 2017 and then joined the state police in 2019, and I’ve been with them since. So about five years," he said.
"The symbology of that pistol is a legacy that Joe Benenati left. It started three careers right here in law enforcement and countless others. The man is a legend, and rightfully so," said Angelino. "The symbology of handing down that pistol, more than one police department does that, and it's a nice gesture to remember that person from the greatest generation that brought all of us up. It's amazing."
Coe said the revolver symbolizes "the legacy and relationship I have with my Uncle Joe," and he was looking for someone local to pass it on to and to carry on the legacy.
"[Ryan Hagen] is from Norwich, he started out in the Norwich City Police Department, he’s now a state trooper and one of the youngest state troopers from Norwich that I know. With that, I know his father, his father and I grew up together, and I decided that it was the best to give it to somebody local," he said.
On Monday, Coe, Angelino, and Tim and Ryan Hagen met at Mayhood's Sporting Goods in Norwich to officially transfer ownership of the gun.
Years down the road, Hagen said he plans to carry on Benenati's legacy and continue the tradition of passing down the pistol.
"Some day. I mean, somewhere far down the road. I’ve got a few more years. We’ll have to see who’s next in line," Hagen said.
"There’s a lot of meaning behind it," he added. "Legacy is very important in this profession, and it’s cool to have the privilege to be in possession of it now, knowing what it means. It’s definitely an honor."