Richard W. Neems knew he wanted to work in law enforcement from a very young age -- as a child, he used to idolize his uncle, who was a police officer, his family said.

"He liked that his uncle was happy, he'd go to work happy and come home happy, and he figured this has to be good," said his son Richard A. Neems of East Northport. "Then once he started doing it, he became very good at it and he was at the top of his game."

Neems, who spent 35 years first as a police officer and then a detective in the Suffolk County Police Department and the district attorney's office, died Tuesday. He was 65.

Neems was born Dec. 29, 1949, in Westbury to Harold and Helen Neems. His family moved to Suffolk County and he graduated from Northport High School, his eldest son said, and spent most of his life living in Northport. Shortly after graduation, he started dating his future wife, Roxanne Donohue, after the two met at a bar in the village.

They married in 1973, the same year Neems was hired onto the Suffolk County police force, starting as an officer in the Second Precinct. In the early 1980s, he was promoted to detective in the Second Precinct, and worked there until the early 1990s, when he became a special detective investigator in the district attorney's office, his family said.

He retired in 2008, but was hired as a consultant investigator by the district attorney's office in 2013, family said.

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Neems and his wife had four sons, and when he wasn't immersed in his work, he loved camping with his family and spending time on the beach -- especially the Jersey Shore and Block Island, his eldest son said. And when his three granddaughters came along, they stole his heart.

"He was the perfect father -- he was a father, but he was also very good at being your friend too. He was always your best friend," his son said. "He instilled in us a great work ethic. He told us, 'Find something that you like doing, and if you're lucky, maybe they'll pay you for it.' "

In addition to his son Richard, survivors include his wife, Roxanne of Northport; sons Ryan of Kings Park, Sean of East Setauket, Daniel of San Francisco; sister Nancy Kolonoski of Medford, New Jersey; brothers Robert Neems of West Hartford, Connecticut, and Harold Neems of Wilmington, North Carolina; and three granddaughters.

Visitation was Saturday and Sunday at Nolan & Taylor-Howe Funeral Home in Northport. A funeral Mass is to be celebrated Monday at St. Joseph's Church in Kings Park.