By Liam Day
The following article about former Boston
Police officer Walter Fahey was published in the
Reporter in 1997. Walter passed away last week at
In 1957, the year Walter Fahey became a cop, the
Soviets launched Sputnik, Ted Williams hit a robust
.388 and the tallest building in Boston, the John
Hancock tower, was a mere 26 stories high.
Now, in 1997, the Soviet Union is no more, the
Red Sox don't know who their starting left-fielder
will be this season, and the new glass and steel
Hancock tower rises over 60 stories. Oh yeah, and
Walter Fahey is retiring. After 40 years on the
Much changed during Walter Fahey's 40 years on
the job, but Walter Fahey did not. He was as
enthusiastic his last day on the job, as he was on
his first. Captain Robert Dunford of Area C-11
marvels at Fahey's unbridled enthusiasm, even after
all those years.
"The question is not how did Walter last on the
job all those years, but how did he keep his
enthusiasm all those years," says Dunford. "I think
it is because of his faith in people."
Yes, Walter Fahey is a people person. But his
longevity and enthusiasm for the job are due to
more than an unshakable belief in humanity. They
are due, in part to the pride he took in wearing
In 1957, when he took an oath to serve and
protect the citizenry of Boston, Walter Fahey
received a meager $73 and change per week.
"There was no waiting list when I joined the
force," explains Fahey. "The pay wasn't very good
and there weren't any benefits."
That didn't matter to Walter Fahey. He wanted to
be a cop. Growing up in Roxbury, there was a police
officer, Bill McCarthy, who walked the beat in
young Walter's neighborhood. Officer McCarthy knew
everybody in his beat, both parents and kids, and
he kept Walter and his friends on the straight and
narrow. If Walter did something wrong, Officer
McCarthy would find out.
"He was a role model for me," Fahey said.
That was the type of cop Walter Fahey wanted to
be. But as society became more mobile, the Boston
Police started doing away with walking beats. That
was 1963. Now the police are returning to the
walking beat, although the term used today is
community policing. Walter Fahey is happy about the
"Before, we (the police) were reactive. Now, we
are trying to solve problems before they happen.
That's what community policing is, a partnership
between the police and the community for solving
problems before the happen."
That first year, 1957, Officer Fahey was
assigned to the traffic division downtown. Shortly
after he joined the force, for three years, in
fact, but three years is a short span of time in
the career of Walter Fahey, he found himself
assigned to the motorcade of Democratic
Presidential Nominee John F. Kennedy, as he made
his way to the Boston Garden for a rally the night
before the 1960 election. Officer Fahey did not
receive overtime for the detail. At that time cops
didn't receive overtime, or court time, and if
assigned to a detail they stayed right to the end,
receiving the same weekly rate as they always
Soon-to-be President Kennedy's Buick convertible
fought through a wall of people on Causeway Street
and Officer Fahey was pinned to the back of the car
by the overwhelming crowd.
"The old Garden used to seat 13,000 people. I
bet there were 26,000 people there that night."
The Buick convertible turned into an alley off
Causeway Street and as President Kennedy got out of
the car and headed into one of the Garden's side
entrances he thanked Officer Fahey.
"That was one of the most exciting nights of my
That was not the only time Officer Fahey was
assigned to a Kennedy. In a much more publicized
incident, because it was captured in a nationally
syndicated photograph, Officer Fahey protected
Edward Kennedy, the former President's younger
brother, at an anti-bussing rally in City Hall
Plaza in 1974. The crowd, hostile to Kennedy's
pro-busing stance, had started throwing eggs and
rotten fruit at the Senator. Fahey was escorting
him into the federal office building on the North
side of the plaza when the photograph was
During 40 years on the job, Walter Fahey
gathered many memories, some funny and some
painful, frozen in time like that famous photograph
taken in 1974, and it is that balance, between the
good and the bad, that has also helped Walter Fahey
keep his enthusiasm on the job.
"You have to match every negative with a
positive thing. Otherwise, you'll just go crazy,"
And there have been a lot of positives. Take
Thunder, for instance.
Before I begin the Thunder story, I should tell
you that Thunder is a Rottweiler. Yes, but a
friendly Rottweiler. Thunder belongs to the
Flaherty's on Plain Street and one morning Thunder
followed Mary Flaherty's brother to the bus stop.
Where he waited to catch an early bus. As he was
about to board, Mary's brother realized that
Thunder had followed him and ordered Thunder to
stay. And that is what Thunder did. He stayed,
waiting at the bus stop, scaring passers-by-merely
with his presence.
Mary Flaherty, distressed by Thunder's absence,
called the police and received a visit from Officer
Fahey. Together they went looking for Thunder. They
didn't have to look very far. Receiving a report of
a vicious-looking dog waiting at the bus stop by
the Little Peach on Neponset Avenue, Mary Flaherty
and Officer Fahey knew that is could only be
Thunder. The welcome was warm and wet.
For all of the criminals that he has arrested,
it is stories such as Thunder's that made Walter
Fahey a great cop. For reuniting a dog with his
family can bring a smile to the face of one who has
seen too much cruelty, too much inhumanity, too
much despair. You have to match every negative with
a positive thing.
That is exactly what Walter Fahey did. And
Thunder's is not the only story.
"Everyone who ever worked with him has a Walter
Fahey story," explains Captain Dunford. "In that
way he is going to live on around here for a long,
And that is also part of the answer to Captain
Dunford's original question. That is what has
enabled Walter Fahey to stay on the job as long as
he has. That is what has allowed him to keep his
enthusiasm for the job all these years.
Indeed much changes during Walter Fahey's 40
years on the job. The Cold War ended and the
downtown grew. The Red Sox are still looking for
that elusive World Series championship, as well as
a starting left-fielder.
But Walter Fahey did not change. Hopefully, he
never will. And now that he is retired, maybe the
Red Sox could use him in left field.
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