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Officer Walter Fahey and his partner Frank Venuti were a formidable crime-fighting duo in District 11 for a dozen years. (FILE 1997)

By Kevin Cullen

Globe Staff / October 21, 2008

Eleven years ago, two weeks before he was forced to retire at the mandatory age of 65, Walter Fahey hopped out of his cruiser and started chasing some guy who had robbed somebody at knifepoint in Dorchester.

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Listening to Mr. Fahey huffing and puffing as he narrated the foot chase over the police radio, then-Sergeant Frank Armstrong grabbed a microphone at the communications center known as The Turret and admonished him with a mixture of concern and fury.
"Walter!" Armstrong yelled. "What are you doing?! You're going out in two weeks!"
"Hey, Sarge," came the breathless reply, "You're still paying me. I don't stop working until the final tour."
Mr. Fahey - who relayed that and the stories that follow to this journalist over the years - worked his final tour on a black, frosty night 11 years ago, but he wasn't really "Ocean Frank" - radio parlance for off duty - until yesterday, when he died at his Marshfield home after his heart gave out, following a long bout with cancer. He was 76.
Part legend, part enigma, and all cop, Walter Fahey was a force on the streets of Boston for 40 years. He walked the beat as a walking contradiction. He was a physically imposing man who on more than one occasion braved bullets and disarmed violent criminals. But he was a big softy, often moved to tears by the human condition he encountered on the streets. He treated the homeless with a special tenderness, bringing them food he collected from businesses that would otherwise dispose of it.
"Walter taught me that while you had to be tough, you also had to be compassionate to be a good cop," said Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, who was among the many rookies broken in by Mr. Fahey.
Mr. Fahey personified the old Boston Police Department, which was overwhelmingly white, Irish, and male. But as the department became more diversified, he became a role model and paternal figure for a new generation of officers. While some dismissed the emphasis on affirmative action hiring in the 1970s and 1980s as tokenism, Mr. Fahey went out of his way to welcome newcomers.
Kathleen O'Toole, one of the city's first female patrol officers - and later, the first female police commissioner - said Mr. Fahey encouraged her and others who didn't fit the typical mold.
"Walter respected working cops, and he didn't care what gender or what color you were," O'Toole said yesterday from Dublin, where she is chief inspector of Ireland's police force. "What was rare about Walter was not just his humanity, but he was as enthusiastic about the job on the last day as he was on the first. He just loved being a cop."
Mr. Fahey grew up in Roxbury, one of six children born to Irish immigrants. His father was a night watchman, and by the time he was 6, he knew he wanted to be a cop. He started in the traffic unit and was influenced by one of his first partners, Ray Winson.
"Never seek the level of the people we deal with," Winson told him. "And always remember we're not dealing with the Kennedys and Rockefellers out here."
Mr. Fahey was defensive of people who lived in high-crime neighborhoods.
"You can't judge all people by a few," he once said. "The worst thing you can do is to ascribe an individual's failings to a group."
In 1976, Mr. Fahey was assigned to District 11 in Dorchester, partnering with an officer named Frank Venuti. They were an odd couple: Venuti was as quiet as Mr. Fahey was gregarious. But they were a formidable crime-fighting duo for a dozen years. One day, they were called to a tenement and found a family overwhelmed by grief as a newborn lay in her crib, lifeless.
"Has this child been baptized?" Mr. Fahey asked.
The parents, their eyes red and raw, shook their heads.
Mr. Fahey poured tap water onto the lifeless baby's forehead and made the sign of the cross as the family knelt around him, murmuring prayers in Spanish.
After the baby's body was removed, Mr. Fahey and Venuti stayed with the family for hours. Eventually, a priest arrived and was taken aback as the mother explained how the police officer had baptized the baby. The priest took Mr. Fahey aside and haughtily informed him that he had no business administering a sacrament. Mr. Fahey leaned toward the priest.
"Listen, Father," Mr. Fahey whispered. "You and I are of the same faith. I was always taught that anyone could perform a baptism in an emergency, especially for a child. Now, if you want to tell that family their beautiful little girl is in Limbo, you be my guest. But as far as I'm concerned, that little girl is in Heaven right now."
The priest was speechless. Mr. Fahey walked over and hugged the dead girl's mother.
Mr. Fahey was promoted to detective, but in 1992, he became the city's first and only detective to voluntarily turn in his gold badge and return to the rank of patrol officer. He missed the streets. At age 64, he became the oldest officer to win the department's Medal of Honor, for ending an armed hostage standoff. It was the second time he won it.
He leaves his wife, Marie, and four sons, Stephen of Exeter, N.H., William and Mark of Duxbury, and Gerard of Marshfield; and a daughter, Theresa Manchester of Taunton.
Funeral arrangements are pending.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/ar...r_walter_fahey_was_a_force_on_boston_streets/
 

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"You can't judge all people by a few," he once said. "The worst thing you can do is to ascribe an individual's failings to a group."
That's a name that anyone in law enforcement in greater Boston has no doubt heard bandied about once or twice and always in a very glowing way. God Bless him and that quote above are words to live by. We should all try to follow that wonderful advice.

Rest in Peace, Brother.
 
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"Walter!" Armstrong yelled. "What are you doing?! You're going out in two weeks!"
"Hey, Sarge," came the breathless reply, "You're still paying me. I don't stop working until the final tour."
That is awesome !!!!!!! What an awesome attitude to have. Sounds like someone tio truly look up to. I hope he was an FTO at some point in his long career. RIP brother.
 

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I want to thank everyone for the kind words about my Dad P.O Walter J. Fahey. My dad was a great man, and we will miss him very much. It has been a very difficult week for my family and it is hard to accept that he is no longer around to speak with. My father loved being a Police officer and he was among the best ever to wear the badge. As great an officer that he was, he was even a better Dad. He was Cop's Cop and Man's Man. We miss him terribly

William J. Fahey
 

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Thank you all for the kind words about my dad, Walter Fahey. He was all cop until the last roll call. Though my heart is breaking I know his memory will live forever in those he helped through the years. He was always more concerned about how others were doing instead of himself and was that way until the end. He called "the job" his vocation, and the streets of Boston his parish. He loved the job, he loved his brother and sister officers and always walked the walk. My dad will be waked out of McDonald funeral Home in South Weymouth (rt 18 across from So. Shore Hospital) from 2-8pm Thursday with a funeral mass in Marshfield friday 1000am our lady of the assumption church careswell and canal street. STAY SAFE EVERYONE AND THANKS AGAIN! Andrew Fahey
 

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This article is 100% accurate regarding Walter's attitude about the job, the public, and life in general. This was the true Walter Fahey.
He was the real deal.

I first met Walter about 15 years ago. We talked for 25 minutes. I learned more from that first conversation than I could have in 5 years on the street. He left such an impression with me that I remember every word he said. Over the years, I'd always ask the guys from his old district if they had heard from him. That's the kind of impression Walter left on you.

Walter and Andrew, you have my deepest sympathy. We know where your Dad is now.

R.I.P. Walter. You will be truly missed.
 

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Back in the late 80's when I worked in the Auto Theft Strike Force, I used to run into Walter all the time on the streets of Dorchester and at Doughboy's in Eddie Everett Sq. He always had a smile and a good thought to share. He also gave me good info on what was going down on the streets.

To his sons William and Andrew: You can be sure that even though your dad has passed on, his spirit and memory lives on in a lot of people. Cops and citizens alike.
 

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There is an article on the passing of Patrolman Fahey on the cover of the December issue of Amercian Police Beat. Most of it was a reprint from the Globe article; I thought I'd post it nonetheless.

http://www.apbweb.com/featured-articles/1026-boston-loses-a-legend.html

There are also some moving comments and small anecdotal stories on the Globe comment section. I would encourage all to read them. Most of us can only dream of being such a great cop, to be remembered in such a positive way, or to have such an impact on the lives of those in the cities and towns in which we work.

http://people.boston.com/articles/cityandregion/?p=articlecomments&activityId=7998004756036116060

I found this one particularly moving:
I worked in Old Area C-11 in the mid-80s when Walter Fahey and Frank Venuti worked steady Anti-Crime (plainclothes unit) on the day tour. I was on nights. It was with a touch of sadness that I read of his death. After reading the article, I started reminiscing about Walter (ever the gregarious and talkative one) and Frank Venuti (as quiet as a church mouse.) I felt a bit sad because a bit of my past has gone on.

I left the BPD in January 2000 to join the Feds and am now overseas, but not a day goes by when I don't remember my days in old Dist. 11 when cops like Fahey and Venuti and others used to go into the streets of Dorchester and catch bad guys. We had a lot of fun, and I was lucky enough to come on at a time when policing was still done in an Old School fashion with cops able to give someone a break instead of always making an arrest. We carried .38s and sticks and none of us had ever heard of a taser or computer in a radio car. It was a time when cops were a part of the neighborhood fabric and where the stationhouse was a safe haven for the downtrodden and the helpless.

Walter was a part of the n'hood fabric and I remember that the kids on the streets (around Bowdoin/Geneva and other parts of C-11) had a nickname for Walter and Frank...a lot of times in those days, the kids would nickname the working cops in a pct. I can't remember what the nickname was that the kids had for Walter and Frank, but maybe other old time C-11 cops will be able to help me out...

Resquiat in pacem.

It must be a sign of age, because all of the old time cops I remember from my early years on the Job are passing on. Those times were tough and C-11 was a busy house. Walter was a calming figure who never forgot that the citizens paid him to do the Job. Walter and old time cops like him will stick in my memory forever because you just don't see that type of policing anymore.

My condolences to the Fahey family on the passing of a Dorchester cop!
 
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Walter was the best. I met him after he left detectives and went back on patrol. Always a gentleman and a Cop's Cop. Walter was a worker well into his sixties and never forgot what it mean't to be a real cop and a real human being. Walter and all the old school cops like him will be sorely missed.
 

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I met Walter when he was an instructor at my academy in 1999. At the first class with him we took out our notebooks and were ready to start writing. He told us to put them away because he was going to tell us what it was really like out on the streets. I loved his stories. Walter taught us to be tough and project a strong and dignified presence in uniform, but to never forget to have compassion and a sense of humanity and to treat all fairly regardless of social standing. I have since had the highest respect for him. Rest in Peace Brother.
 

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I also met Walter while he was teaching my academy in 99. He was an absolutely amazing person to listen to!

Part legend, part enigma, and all cop, Walter Fahey
I could not agree more!

My deepest condolences to his family, as I'm sure you have read he was loved, respected, and will be missed by many.

If you could measure a man's life by the lasting impression he made on everyone he touched there would be no measure big enough to measure the Man that was Walter Fahey! Rest in Peace sir.
 
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