By James W. Dolan
He was a big man with a ready smile and a story
to tell. More than a legend when he worked the
streets of Dorchester, Walter Fahey was real. There
was nothing phony about this guy who seemed to know
everybody in the community.
He was a cop who knew and loved the street; no
desk job for Walter, no CSI, no cushy assignment.
He wanted to be where the action was; where the
people lived and worked.
Some cops become cynical. The frustrations of a
job that brings you too often in contact with the
misery and cruelty of life gets to them. But not
Walter; he saw the suffering humanity behind the
tragedies. He cared about the victims, the losers,
the forgotten. He even cared about the bad
Walter loved people. You could see it in his
face; the twinkle in his eyes and the easy grin. He
was like a priest with a gun; a good natured,
Irish, catholic cop who never viewed those parts of
his nature as incompatible.
You could protect and serve with compassion and
understanding was what he taught the many new
officers who had the privilege of learning the ways
of the street from Walter. You don't learn that in
college or in the academy; some never learn it.
The mean streets of a city are often viewed as
places of fear and violence. It takes a rare person
to see them first as places where families live and
children play; where troubled souls congregate and
where few had opportunities available to those
lucky enough to be born on gentler streets under
The big, redheaded, Irish cop knew all that;
that's why he walked the streets softly with a
smile on his face and a good word for those he met.
He was a friend. They liked and respected him. They
knew he was there if they needed him and would be
the first to confront danger to protect them.
There was something about Walter that made you
feel good. He never lost that infectious enthusiasm
for what he did. Here was a guy who loved his job
and was really good at it. When he came to court,
it was like the mayor paying a visit. He greeted
When his doctor advised him to lose weight,
Walter began running and went from portly to almost
svelte. He was a regular at many of the road races
in the area and could be seen before and after a
race regaling other runners with one or more of his
many stories. It's no secret, he liked to talk.
He retired at 65 after 40 years in the
department. Last week he died of cancer at 76.
I can imagine the conversation he had with St.
Peter when he reached the "pearly gates:"
"Walter Fahey reporting for duty."
"Welcome Walter, we've been expecting you. I've
got a short term assignment I hoped you might
undertake for us. There's been some recent unrest
in purgatory and I thought you might go and try to
calm the situation."
"You know there's a lot of politicians down
there. You'll probable see some familiar
"I'm your man."
"Good! Your old partner Frank Venuti has been
waiting for you and wants to join you on this
assignment. I understand the two of you were quite
a combination on the streets of Dorchester."
"That's great! We'll have the problem cleaned up
in no time. When do we start?"
"Now; and incidentally Walter, about your life
&endash; well done!"
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District
Court judge who now practices law.
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