Ceres, Turlock reserve officer Panos, 52, dies

Robert "Bob" Nicholas Panos dedicated his life to his job in law enforcement and to the people he enjoyed helping.

Mr. Panos, 52, died Tuesday while getting ready to go to work for the Ceres Police Department. He died of natural causes, said son Jason Panos.

He worked as a reserve police officer, serving the Turlock and Ceres police departments for 20 years. Mr. Panos also worked as manager of the legal enforcement unit in the Child Support Services Department for the Stanislaus County district attorney's office for more than 20 years.

He loved working on the behalf of families for the district attorney's office and as a police officer for the same reason -- it offered him a chance to help.

"The people he came across as an officer and the families he got to help, that's what was most important to him," said Jason Panos, 28, an ensign and a pilot with the Navy.

Mr. Panos was named reserve Ceres police officer of the year in April. For the past several months, he had been working full-time shifts in place of officers who were sick or on vacation, his son said.

His daughter, Katie Hill, 27, also works for the Ceres police, in the records division.

Mr. Panos had patrolled the Ceres flea market for 12 years, where he enjoyed working with vendors and customers. The market had trouble with gang activity before a police crackdown and community support returned normalcy to the market about two years ago.

"Every Sunday, that's where he worked and everyone else knew that," his son said. "You can say that beat was his pride and joy."

Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk said Mr. Panos was known for his ability to handle problems at the flea market.

"He came to be known as 'Officer Bob' at the flea market," de Werk said. "We notified everyone at the flea market of his death and they all came down to the police station. They were literally weeping."

De Werk said Mr. Panos was a "level-one" reserve officer, which means he had to have the same qualifications of a regular officer, but he didn't have any law enforcement authority while off duty.

In the summer of 1996, Mr. Panos was selected to be part of a 20,000-member volunteer unarmed security force at the Olympics in Atlanta. He worked at the tennis venue and was about 80 miles away when a bomb exploded in Olympic Centennial Park.

He enjoyed riding his chrome Honda motorcycle, and he was a member of the Blue Knights, a motorcycle club for law enforcement officers. He loved to travel, spend time with his grandson and play with his two dogs.

Mr. Panos is survived by son Jason Panos of Turlock; daughter Katie Hill of Turlock; sister Arlene Diaz of Hayward; and grandson Davis Hill of Turlock.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Nick and Bertha Panos of San Leandro.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Ceres Christian Church at 3502 Roeding Road in Ceres, followed by a funeral at Lakewood Memorial Park, Hughson.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.