We bid a sad farewell to a model for one of Norman Rockwell’s most iconic covers, “The Runaway” from 1958. Dick Clemens, the real police officer who was delighted when Rockwell asked him to pose for the painting, died Monday at the age of 83.
The popular cover shows a boy running away from home, as boys sometimes do. The contrast between the large policeman and the small boy is poignant. Rather than briskly hauling the runaway home, the officer respects the lad’s dignity with a bite at the diner and a chat first. In a 1976 issue of the Post, Clemens talks about modeling for Rockwell:
Being a model for Norman Rockwell has given me a sincere sense of pride. People have come up and told me they have seen copies of the cover. A copy now hangs in the State Police Academy in Framingham, Massachusetts. I also have a reproduction of the original.
I knew Norman Rockwell casually, as a fellow townsperson. For a short period of time we lived on the same street, two doors apart. Mr. Rockwell was aware I was a state police officer. He called me and asked if I would pose for him.
The Runaway happens to be my favorite Norman Rockwell painting. I also had the pleasure to pose for him on a second occasion. He did a Christmas card for the Massachusetts State Police, which depicts a facial view of myself. This is my favorite, next to The Runaway. His art is timeless. It has proven to be pleasing to people of all ages.
I am now chief of plant protection and security officer for the distribution and transformer department of the General Electric Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I am married and have two teenage daughters. My children are very proud of the painting. They have also given prints as gifts.
I had not seen the Locke boy (the young man in The Runaway) from the time that we first posed (1958) until 1971. He and I spent a semester studying logic at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield.