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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.