Fallen heroes remembered as Philly's Police Week kicks off

Joseph Dugan died nearly sev­en dec­ades ago fight­ing a boat fire just off Penn Treaty Park. His fam­ily, and the city, haven't for­got­ten the sac­ri­fice.

The chilly rain­storm of Wed­nes­day, May 4, seemed sym­bol­ic­ally ap­pro­pri­ate dur­ing last week’s Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al Ser­vice, held at Frank­lin Square Park near 6th and Race streets.

The ser­vice is an an­nu­al event that marks the start of Po­lice Week cel­eb­ra­tions here in Phil­adelphia.

In 1962, Pres­id­ent John F. Kennedy des­ig­nated May 15 as Peace Of­ficers Me­mori­al Day, and po­lice of­fi­cials at­tend Na­tion­al Po­lice Week events in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., every year.

Loc­ally, the week has grown in­to a full month of activ­it­ies that be­gins with the somber me­mori­al, held in hon­or of the men and wo­men of the po­lice and fire de­part­ments who have sac­ri­ficed their lives in ser­vice of the city.

“Every day, we worry about the safety of our po­lice and fire per­son­nel,” May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter told the gathered crowd, not­ing that since last year’s me­mori­al event, there have been no deaths of an on-duty po­lice of­ficer or fire­fight­er. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t danger out there.”

Held at the Liv­ing Flame Me­mori­al — a red, tri­pod-shaped sculp­ture fit­ted with a clear flame and sur­roun­ded by stones etched with the names of those who died in ser­vice to the city — the day al­lowed city rep­res­ent­at­ives along with po­lice and fire of­fi­cials to join fam­ily mem­bers of fallen her­oes in a me­mori­al ce­re­mony.

“Thank you for lend­ing them to us,” Nut­ter told the fam­il­ies of the fallen po­lice and fire­fight­ers. “Your loved ones did not die in vain.”

That day, the city re­membered the ser­vice of one fire­fight­er spe­cific­ally, Joseph Dugan, who died on Novem­ber 8, 1943, after suf­fer­ing in­jur­ies while re­spond­ing to a fire that en­gulfed a boat on the Delaware River.

He was se­lec­ted for the hon­or as his name was re­cently ad­ded to the plaque of de­ceased fire per­son­nel at Frank­lin Square Park. His fam­ily is cur­rently work­ing with the Fire De­part­ment to see a me­mori­al plaque placed in his memory.

Dugan — grand­fath­er of Phil­adelphia Mu­ni­cip­al Court judge Pat Dugan — began his ca­reer as a fire­fight­er in 1921. In 1926, he was se­lec­ted to serve as one of the first fire­fight­ers in Res­cue Squad 1, a unit trained to handle com­plex fires on rail­cars, boats, in ex­plo­sions, sub­way ac­ci­dents and col­lapsed build­ings.

A Spring Garden res­id­ent — he lived with his fam­ily in a home along the 1900 block of Hamilton Street — Dugan served as a hose­man on Fire Boat 2, the “Rudolph Blanken­burg,” which was sta­tioned at Penn Treaty Park, along the Delaware River.

On March 8, 1942, Dugan was severely in­jured while be­ing lowered in­to a hatch to battle flames aboard a burn­ing boat on the Delaware River.

He died the next year due to in­jur­ies suffered in the ac­ci­dent.

After the me­mori­al event, mem­bers of the Dugan fam­ily said that they ap­pre­ci­ated the city’s sup­port of their fath­er’s ser­vice after so many years.

“We do re­mem­ber him very well,” said James Dugan, the fire­fight­er’s son. “He used to take us bik­ing down Lem­on Hill and he would take us to the zoo on off days.”

Dugan’s daugh­ters, Mar­garet Dugan-Gagliardi and Pa­tri­cia Dugan-Mc­Gin­ley, said their fath­er was al­ways a hero who helped those in need.

“Once, he even jumped in­to the Delaware River to save a dog,” re­called Mar­garet. “So, we had a pet dog grow­ing up.”

Also, as mem­bers of the audi­ence huddled un­der um­brel­las, Ever­ett Gil­lis­on, deputy may­or for pub­lic safety, said that not only did the city strive to re­mem­ber those who have died in ser­vice to Phil­adelphia, but the new moun­ted unit, set to re­turn to ser­vice this sum­mer, will be something of a liv­ing me­mori­al to five of­ficers who have died since 2008.

Gil­lis­on said the horses would “form a liv­ing bond with the of­ficers they as­sist” and they would be named: “Steph­en,” in hon­or of Sgt. Steph­en Liczb­in­ski, who died in a shootout fol­low­ing a bank rob­bery; “San­ti­ago,” after of­ficer Isa­bel San­ti­ago, who died after her patrol car was struck by a stolen vehicle, “Pat,” in hon­or of Sgt. Patrick Mc­Don­ald, who was shot and killed after pulling over a vehicle, “Tiny Tim,” named for Sgt. Timothy Simpson, who died after an in­tox­ic­ated driver slammed in­to his patrol car and “Johnny,” named after of­ficer John Powlowski, who was shot when he in­ter­vened in a road­way dis­pute.

At the con­clu­sion of the event, after those in at­tend­ance laid flowers for their loved ones and the may­or, Fire Com­mis­sion­er Lloyd Ay­ers and Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey each laid wreaths at the me­mori­al site, doves were re­leased in­to the air.

John McNesby, pres­id­ent of the pres­id­ent of the Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5, said the event is an im­port­ant an­nu­al me­mori­al.

“It’s im­port­ant to get to­geth­er with the fam­ily mem­bers and show that they aren’t for­got­ten,” he said. 

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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