The Bustleton Bengals proudly play their games at the Officer Robert S. Hayes Memorial Playground, named for a police officer killed in the line of duty in 1993.
Some time ago, a skateboarder riding on the roof of the playground building knocked off and damaged the plaque memorializing Hayes.
The Bengals went to work, commissioning a mural to honor Hayes and his partner John Marynowitz, who was seriously wounded after a traffic stop 19 years ago.
Last week, the Bengals presented plaques to Marynowitz and the Hayes family, unveiled a new plaque for the playground and introduced the mural with the inscription that read, “Robert S. Hayes. Died in the line of duty protecting the citizens of Philadelphia on June 16, 1993.”
The mural, drawn by Bob Baumner and Sharisma Smoje, features a likeness of Hayes and his badge, No. 6720. Adjacent is a small garden with flowers and the American flag.
“It was so beautiful. I’m overwhelmed,” widow Jo-Ann Hayes said of the June 20 ceremony, held in intense heat at the playground, at 9800 Roosevelt Blvd.
Hayes, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, and Marynowitz, who had a criminal justice degree from Temple University, entered the Police Academy in March 1986. Hayes was known affectionately as “Uncle Bob” because, at 38, he was older than most recruits.
“We became great friends from the very beginning,” Marynowitz said.
The two were assigned to the 35th Police District. They won valor commendations for drug arrests. Their families spent time together on vacations, trips and holidays.
In June 16, 1993, Hayes and Marynowitz pulled over a gypsy cab with a defective taillight at the intersection of Limekiln Pike and Andrews Avenue in West Oak Lane for what they thought was going to be a routine stop. The driver was a 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Haiti named Borgela Philistin.
The officers saw drugs in the car and tried to apprehend him. He resisted, and a struggle ensued. He grabbed Marynowitz’s gun and shot Hayes in the eye and stomach. He wounded Marynowitz in the head and shoulder, leaving him permanently in a wheelchair.
Philistin was convicted of murder and sentenced to die. He remains on death row.
The officer left behind his wife and sons Bobby, Shawn and Ryan, who were ages 10, 9 and 8. The family lived in Rhawnhurst. Jo-Ann Hayes couldn’t visit the site of her husband’s murder, going there only for a 2005 ceremony where a plaque was dedicated in his memory.
Robert and Jo-Ann Hayes have eight grandchildren, all of whom were at last week’s ceremony at a facility that changed names from Conwell Playground to Robert S. Hayes Memorial Playground in 1994.
“Through this playground, my grandchildren have gotten to know my husband. I never thought they’d ask about Robert S. Hayes and who he was,” she said.
The three Hayes sons also were on hand. The youngest, Ryan, remembered his dad helping out with Cub Scouts and playing whiffle ball with them.
“He was an extraordinary man,” said Ryan, now 27, who wants to become a cop. “For the short time we had him, he was my hero, and I always wanted to be like him.”
The ceremony included the sounds of police Sgt. Edward Hays on the bagpipes and Catherine Mary Bell singing God Bless America.
City Councilman Brian O’Neill, state Sen. Mike Stack and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 vice president Mike Trask attended, along with aides to state Reps. Brendan Boyle and Kevin Boyle.
Bengals president Kevin Hughes and chairman Vince Tarducci presented flowers to Jo-Ann Hayes and Mindy Marynowitz, John’s wife.
Brian Marynowitz, the officer’s brother, recognized Ruth McGirt and Jeff Campbell. McGirt, a respiratory technician who heard the gunshots, performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Marynowitz. Campbell, a police officer, arrived on the scene.
“Without these two, I can honestly say I don’t think my brother would be here today. I only wish we could have saved Bob,” he said.
Brian Marynowitz said his brother has been brave all these years, with help from Mindy and their son Joey, just 19 months old when his dad was shot.
“He’s come a long way in nineteen years. For that, he’s my hero,” Brian said of John.
John Marynowitz, who received a standing ovation, described his former partner as a great soldier, policeman, husband and father.
“I just want to thank everybody for an awesome tribute to Bob,” he said.
Marynowitz, who encouraged the crowd to, “Never give up, always go on,” credited his wife and son with helping him daily.
“I want to thank Joey and Mindy for standing by my side all these years. I wouldn’t be here today without them,” he said.
O’Neill is working with the Bengals to build a gymnasium at the playground.
“It will not just have the Bengals name on it,” he said. “It will have ‘Hayes Playground’ on it as well.” ••EndFragment