Walter Fahey, reporting for duty
October 30, 2008

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 guys.

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 better circumstances.

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 everybody.

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 faces."

"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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