Lodi Police Chaplain touches lives with music and compassion
Raphael Pazo, Lodi
Police Chaplain, Honor Guard Piper
Article published Jul 1st,
2006 Stockton Record
He plays the bagpipes, organizes funerals, counsels police
officers, speaks five languages and has a collection of degrees
ranging from music to international relations. How does
40-year-old Raphael Pazo have time for all of this on top of
helping to raise four kids?
"The price I choose to pay is that I don't watch that much TV,"
The Lodi police chaplain is the only Jewish chaplain in San
Joaquin County. He also touches others' lives because he runs a
funeral home and is an honor guard bagpiper.
"When he comes to comfort people, it doesn't matter what faith
you're from, he's going to love on you," said his fellow Lodi
police chaplain Philip Orosco, who is Protestant.
Pazo was raised as a secular Jew, but returned to religion
almost 10 years ago because he felt the pull of faith. Last
summer, he accepted an invitation to be a police chaplain.
"What really attracted me to the chaplaincy program was that
here we minister to all types of people. When people are facing
an event like death or injury, stepping in and being able to
help them deal is extremely rewarding," he said.
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Pazo graduated high school at the
age of 15 after skipping second and fifth grades.
"My parents always instilled very high academic standards," he
He moved to California and worked for his uncle's casket company
in San Francisco. He then earned two associates, two bachelor's,
two masters and two doctorates degrees in business
administration, mortuary science, administration of justice,
biology and business management, music, language arts,
international relations and comparative religion; he also
received rabbinical Smicha (certification) and was ordained as a
Rabbi in New York on June 2005..
"The more I study, the more I realize that there's so much I
don't know. It's a very humbling experience," he said.
He also spent six years in the Army to earn more college money,
dividing that time between South America and the Middle East.
He learned Arabic in the Army, and said the language is phonetic
and not as hard as one would think. He grew up speaking Spanish
and English in Puerto Rico, picked up Portuguese from his mother
and learned Hebrew in rabbinical school.
A funeral parlor is a place where he can integrate a good number
of his skills, Pazo said.
"In this profession, we're faced with the clinical challenges,
like reconstructive surgery, we're faced with the business
aspects, we deal with international affairs, and personally what
I like the most is teaching and learning," he said.
Pazo's warmth and compassion are what
give the Frisbie-Warren and Carroll Mortuary he manages in
Stockton one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of all
the Northern California funeral homes owned by the Service
Corporation International group, said SCI regional manager
"His compassion for families is what makes him succeed," he
Raphael Pazo, right, and son Daniel Pazo
practice playing bagpipes in their back yard last week.
Raphael Pazo, the only Jewish police chaplain in San Joaquin
County, also is an honor guard bagpiper and funeral home
DOUGLAS RIDER/The Record
Running a funeral
home is "like having a ministry anyway, and he combines the
two. He has a calming nature and soothing way about him,"
The bagpipes can be soothing, too, in their own way. Pazo
has been playing them on and off since high school, when a
friend brought the instrument to school and told Pazo it
would be too challenging for him, he recalled.
"I just became enamored with the bagpipes," he said. He is
an honor guard piper for the Lodi Police Department, and
plays at city and county events.
The pipes - and music in general - also play a role in the
Pazo family life. His Scottish wife, Susan, plays the French
horn. The two met in a chorus class at the University of San
"My family thinks it's so funny that a Puerto Rican plays
bagpipes," she said.
The couple's 16-year-old son, Daniel, is learning to play
the bagpipes, and his other two sons and daughter also play
"Music is something we can do together," Raphael Pazo said.
He and Daniel practice piping together most days.
"They just have a haunting sound," said Daniel, who will be
a senior at Tokay High School in Lodi next school year.
"When you play them, you feel like you're by a bog and it's
Contact reporter Anna Kaplan at (209) 546-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org