Hero plaque honors highway patrolman

A pho­to­graph of Po­lice Of­ficer Frank Magro be­fore he died in a mo­tor­cycle ac­ci­dent in 1977. A plaque was ded­ic­ated in his memory on Gir­ard Ave. and 31 St., Wed­nes­day, Ju­ly 25, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

The bad guys called po­lice of­ficer Frank Magro, “The Hunter.”

“He’d al­ways find his man, and they knew it,” said the of­ficer’s wife, Bar­bara.

Fran­cis J. “Frank” Magro, as­signed to the high­way patrol, was work­ing on the morn­ing of March 30, 1977. He was rid­ing his mo­tor­cycle near 31st Street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue, on his way to a city gar­age to get it re­paired.

Some­time be­fore 9:30, the bike skid­ded on trol­ley tracks. A vehicle col­lided with the of­ficer, and he did not sur­vive his in­jur­ies. He was 35 and in his 10th year with the de­part­ment.

Magro, who lived in the Far North­east, left be­hind his wife and five chil­dren ran­ging in age from 18 months to 12 years old.

More than 35 years later, those chil­dren — Frank, Tony, Tina, Scott and Billy ­— are all grown up. They’ve giv­en Magro and his wife 10 grand­chil­dren, with a great-grand­child on the way.

Last week, about 25 mem­bers of the ex­ten­ded Magro fam­ily were back out at 31st and Gir­ard as Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 and at­tor­ney James J. Binns ded­ic­ated a plaque in his memory. At­tor­ney Thomas Jen­nings sponsored the plaque.

Among those in at­tend­ance were Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams, City Coun­cil­man Bill Green­lee and aides to U.S. Sens. Bob Ca­sey Jr. and Pat Toomey.

The plaque is loc­ated in a plaza/garden that also in­cludes monu­ments for the men and wo­men who built the Pennsylvania Rail­road and the 29th Ward War Moth­ers, Gold Star Moth­ers and Gold Star Wives.

The song Ever­green, a fa­vor­ite of Magro’s, played as the plaque was un­veiled. FOP Lodge 5 pres­id­ent John McNesby and Deputy Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Richard Ross presen­ted Bar­bara with the city of Phil­adelphia flag.

The plaque was the second of the year and 106th for a Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer. Binns, whose pro­gram goes bey­ond the city and state bound­ar­ies, has been a part of 255 plaques over­all.

“We should nev­er for­get those they left be­hind,” McNesby said of fallen of­ficers’ sur­viv­ors.

The years since the tragedy have gone by quickly for Magro’s wid­ow, who lives in Somer­ton.

“It seems like yes­ter­day,” she said.

Magro joined the po­lice de­part­ment in Septem­ber 1967. His wife said he loved his fam­ily, hunt­ing, golf­ing and the Phil­lies.

“But he really loved be­ing a po­lice­man,” she said, not­ing that he en­joyed work­ing in high­way and the 39th Dis­trict equally.

Bar­bara said her hus­band’s “ul­ti­mate dream” was about to be real­ized when he was se­lec­ted to per­form in the Hero Thrill Show, which at the time took place at the massive JFK Sta­di­um.

Binns in­vited Bar­bara to this year’s show, sched­uled for Sept. 22 out­side the Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

Magro had a great sense of hu­mor and eas­ily made friends.

“Even some of the people he locked up liked him,” Bar­bara said.

Scott Magro, the fourth-old­est in the fam­ily, spoke of his fath­er’s ser­vice as a Mar­ine and the bravery com­mend­a­tions he earned as a po­lice of­ficer.

Scott, a former po­lice of­ficer in Spring Hill, Tenn., and a mem­ber of the U.S. Army, wished his dad was around to teach him to catch a ball, run a passing route or how to be a good fath­er.

But Scott could feel his fath­er’s pres­ence on his wed­ding day, at the births of his chil­dren, as he patrolled as a cop in Ten­ness­ee and when he was sta­tioned in Afgh­anistan in 2010.

“He was there,” his son said.

Billy Magro was just a tod­dler when his dad died.

“I got a lot of stor­ies of him be­ing a jokester, and he was def­in­itely a well-re­spec­ted of­ficer,” his son said.

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

Com­ing up …

The next po­lice plaque ded­ic­a­tion will take place Sept. 26. It will me­mori­al­ize of­ficer Wil­li­am J. McN­ulty, who died of head in­jur­ies sus­tained dur­ing a ri­ot in 1946 when work­ers were strik­ing at Gen­er­al Elec­tric in South­w­est Phil­adelphia.

Any­one in­ter­ested in spon­sor­ing a hero plaque can con­tact James Binns at 215-275-3000.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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