Looks like a scary guy, doesn’t he? If you got pulled over for a traffic violation and this guy got out of the police car, you’d be nervous. He was a giant of a man. He could squish you like a bug if you got out of line with him. My guess is that people rarely did.
But the Pat I knew since he was 8 was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. His brother Bill was my best friend from high school. Pat was a funny, caring person who didn’t carry the weight of his job around with him. I just saw him over Labor Day weekend at his nephew’s wedding. He was dancing up a storm. At one point, he got down on the floor and wriggled around on his back with his giant arms and legs flailing in the air. He was the life of the party.
There was a husband and wife seated at our table who were police officers from a rural small town. When I found out they were cops I said, “Hey, you’ve got to meet Pat.” Imagine how the biggest Rock ‘n Roll fans you can think of, would react upon meeting Elvis.
They tried to keep from appearing too impressed. But as Pat talked to them, I could tell they were virtually drooling. He had worked in one of the toughest district in Chicago. He had chased guys with guns down dark alleys. He later worked in the Marine Unit, rescuing stranded Lake Michigan boaters on pleasant sunny summer days and recovering suicides amid the ice floes in the dead of winter. He was the real police. But he wasn’t one of those guys who was full of false bravado. A real gentleman.
He never married, but was adored by his nephews and nieces. He suffered a heart attack in the lobby of his apartment building. The security camera recorded him clutching his chest and falling to the floor. He was pronounced dead at the scene. At least he didn’t suffer. He was 54.
His wake was at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church. The place was crawling with cops. Pairs of officers maintained an honor guard at the casket. The changing of the guard every half hour was as emotional as the one at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, Virginia. The Salvation Army had their huge Emergency Kitchen van parked in front. The same one they bring to big fires and police actions. They provide free coffee and, you guessed it, donuts to the first responders. There were that many cops there.
Hundreds of photos of Pat were displayed in the back of the church. In every single one of them, Pat has a broad smile on his face. That’s the way I will remember Pat. I’m sorry that the only photo of him I could find was the scary one above.
I don’t know much, but I do know that Heaven is a lot more fun now that Pat is there. Good bye, buddy.