More than a half century later, an officer is honored

The fam­ily of Wil­li­am McN­ulty gath­er around a plaque ded­ic­ated in his memory. McN­ulty was a po­lice of­ficer who died in the line of duty in 1946. (Tom War­ing)

Back in March 1946, there was a strike at the massive Gen­er­al Elec­tric fa­cil­ity, which stretched from 67th to 70th streets and Elm­wood to al­most Paschall av­en­ues in South­w­est Phil­adelphia’s East­wick neigh­bor­hood.

Wil­li­am J. McN­ulty was among count­less po­lice of­ficers from across the city who were de­ployed to keep the peace on the pick­et line.

McN­ulty lived in the Far North­east on a large prop­erty near By­berry Road and Poquess­ing Creek. He was based out of the Cen­ter City po­lice sta­tion at 20th and But­ton­wood streets.

On March 6, ac­cord­ing to news­pa­per ac­counts, McN­ulty was dir­ect­ing a po­lice de­tail when he was stricken out­side the GE plant, either by a cereb­ral hem­or­rhage or a heart at­tack. He was taken to Phil­adelphia Gen­er­al Hos­pit­al, where he died the next day. He is bur­ied in St. Domin­ic Cemetery in Holmes­burg.

A few weeks ago, more than 66 years after his death, a plaque was ded­ic­ated in his memory.

The GE prop­erty, which wel­comed nu­mer­ous World War II vet­er­ans to the work­force and em­ployed 7,500 people in its hey­day, is long closed and now a neigh­bor­hood eye­sore.

The plaque was placed in the side­walk across the street from the plant, at 6916 Elm­wood Ave., home of the South­w­est Seni­or Cen­ter, which opened more than four dec­ades after McN­ulty’s death.

“I’m so happy. It lif­ted my spir­its up to here,” said Joan Mul­len, McN­ulty’s 85-year-old daugh­ter, who was a re­cent Naz­areth Academy High School gradu­ate at the time of her fath­er’s death.

George Shaf­fer was born nine years after his grand­fath­er’s death. He de­scribed the Sept. 26 plaque ce­re­mony as “hon­or­able” and “noble.” Shaf­fer re­peated the ax­iom that no one ever dies, as long as people re­mem­ber them.

“Grandpa, you have lived a full life and you will live on,” he told the crowd in his re­marks.

The of­ficer, who was 44 when he died, was a 16-year vet­er­an of the po­lice de­part­ment. He and his wife Elean­or had three chil­dren, daugh­ters Joan and Pa­tri­cia and a son Wil­li­am, who would go on to re­ceive the first Hero Schol­ar­ship and be­come a deputy com­mis­sion­er in the fire de­part­ment. McN­ulty’s wife and daugh­ter Pa­tri­cia have passed away.

The McN­ulty fam­ily lived in South Phil­adelphia be­fore mov­ing to 4601 Vista St. in the May­fair/Holmes­burg area, then to the farm-like set­ting in Somer­ton.

McN­ulty once worked at the old 27th Po­lice Dis­trict at State Road and Long­shore Av­en­ue. Two years be­fore his death, he de­veloped a work sched­ule that re­vo­lu­tion­ized the way the en­tire po­lice de­part­ment was run. His mo­tiv­a­tion was, among oth­er things, to get more of­ficers on the street to pre­vent late-night at­tacks and hol­dups.

At the time of his death, he was a pop­u­lar patrol­man in the area of Broad and Clear­field streets in North Phil­adelphia. As news­pa­per re­ports chron­icled, he de­livered on a prom­ise to bring 300 kids from the Si­mon Muir School to his home for a pic­nic.

McN­ulty’s 17 grand­chil­dren and oth­er des­cend­ants learned more about his life from a scrap­book kept by his son Bill. The scrap­book in­cludes pic­tures, news­pa­per art­icles and touch­ing tele­grams from the of­ficer to his wife about how he missed her while work­ing even­ings and hol­i­days.

The plaque ded­ic­a­tions are a joint ef­fort of at­tor­ney James J. Binns and Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5. In all, there have been 107 plaques ded­ic­ated to Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers and 258 over­all for Phil­adelphia-area po­lice of­ficers, fire­fight­ers and oth­er emer­gency re­spon­ders.

Among those at the ce­re­mony were Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams, City Coun­cil­men Bill Green­lee and Kenyatta John­son and state Reps. Maria Donatucci and Ron Wa­ters.

Ram­sey and re­tired Chief In­spect­or Jim Tiano presen­ted McN­ulty’s daugh­ter Joan with a Phil­adelphia flag. FOP Lodge 5 re­cord­ing sec­ret­ary Bob Bal­lentine handed roses to Mul­len and the oth­er wo­men in the fam­ily.

“He was a good per­son. He loved kids and he loved people,” his daugh­ter said. “He was a won­der­ful dad. We knew we were loved.” ••

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

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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