By Tony Bamonte and Jack Pearson
Above, Bob Grandinetti visits with Spokane School children dressed as Santa, circa late-1970s, for the Santa Safety Program. Photo courtesy of Tony Bamonte.
Find this story and more on Spokane Police history in Tony Bamonte and Jack Pearson’s book, “Motorcycle Officers of Eastern Washington and Relevant Crime Stories” online at Tornado Creek Publications.
Bob Grandinetti was born in Spokane in 1937. His parents were Carmen and Carmella Grandinetti from Kellogg, Idaho, where his father worked for the Northern Pacific Railway.
When they moved to Spokane, Bob and his family lived on South Ralph Street. In Spokane, Bob attended Sheridan Grade School, Libby Junior High, and Lewis & Clark High School. Following high school Bob joined the Air Force Reserve. He later enrolled at Eastern Washington State College, which he attended for two years. During Bob’s earlier years he was quite proficient on the drums. He originally learned to play in high school. Later he played in the Air Force Band, and following his discharge from the military, he played for numerous popular bands around the area. He was one of the few drummers who could read music.
Bob met his wife, Beverly Meyer, in 1962, while they were both attending Saint Ann’s Catholic Church in Spokane, where they both belonged to the same youth group. They were putting on a play at the time.
They were married in 1964 and have three children; Cami, born in 1966; Kimberly, born in 1971; and Rob, born in 1976. As of this writing, Kimberly is a pediatrician, and both Cami and Rob are civil engineers working for the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Bob joined the Spokane Police Department in 1967. While in Patrol he was assigned to various duties, enjoying them all. From there he was assigned to the Traffic Division, where he rode motor from 1970 to 1974, later working hit and run cases. From 1982 to 1990, he worked Community Services and from 1990 to 1998 he worked Operational Management.
The Santa Safety Program
Bob worked the Safety Santa Program for over 25 years. Before this program was formalized in the early 1900s, officers would take unclaimed items, such as bicycles in the property room, and distribute them, in secret, to needy children on Christmas Eve after the children had gone to bed.
The School Safety Santa Program sought to educate young people on child safety. Originally created by a Spokane Police officer, the tradition continued through the dedication of the officers who faithfully kept the program alive until the mid 1990s. The School Safety Santa Program took place each December when an officer dressed in a Santa suit visited Spokane elementary schools to talk to students and teachers about personal safety. Each visit concluded with gifts and holiday cards donated by local Spokane businesses. Over the decades many officers have donated much of their time to the Santa Program.
The program began in the 1940s, when Donald Lussier played the role, followed by Art Corbett in the 1950s. Ralph Weir took “the mantle” for a few years before Harold Tucker, who was one of the longest tenured Santas, for 15 years. Harold was followed by Bob Grandinetti, who served the department and the children of Spokane for many years. Duane Willmschen did a short stint before the program was permanently retired. This program has transitioned into the Shop with a Cop program.
When asked who the biggest influence in his life was, Bob referred to his brother, John, who was also on the Spokane Police Department from 1951 to 1978. Bob Grandinetti passed away in 2016. He had a large funeral, attended by many current and former police officers.