By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Police Officer John Pawlowski was laid to rest Friday, Feb. 20, following a funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
Pawlowski, 25, a five-year veteran of the police department died in the line of duty Friday, Feb. 13. A member of St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, he had attended the parish grade school and Archbishop Ryan High School.
He is the sixth Philadelphia police officer to die in the line of duty since October 2007.All were Catholic.
In a now-familiar ritual, a long line of police from Philadelphia and jurisdictions in and beyond the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania marched into the Cathedral, pausing at their fallen comrade’s casket to bid farewell. State troopers, civic officials and citizens joined in the mourning.
Cardinal Justin Rigali served as principal celebrant and homilist at the noon Mass that drew an estimated 1,500 to the Cathedral. Despite the bitter cold, the overflow crowd watched the liturgy outdoors on a Jumbotron across the street from the Cathedral.
In his homily, the Cardinal acknowledged how the officer’s violent death invaded “the sacred precincts of the womb” since Pawlowski leaves behind a widow, Kim, who is pregnant. That child, the Cardinal said, “is deprived of a father” but “will still express forever the legacy of love of both parents.”
The Archdiocese’s four auxiliary bishops and Father Thomas J. Dunleavy, pastor of St. Anselm Parish, were among the numerous priests who concelebrated Pawlowski’s funeral Mass.
In remarks before the Mass, Pawlowski’s sister, Lauren, remembered her brother, Johnny, as the ultimate all-American kid who excelled in all sports, was devoted to his family and valued his job.
“Johnny was Kimmy’s first kiss in fifth grade,” Lauren said. It took place on the bleachers at a school dance, she added.
The couple married last year at St. Anselm Church. After the newlyweds learned Kim was pregnant, Johnny was thrilled at the prospect of becoming a father, his sister said.
Lauren also recalled a conversation in which her brother acknowledged his pride in being a policeman. “Sometimes,” she remembered him saying, “I look into the eyes of the people I’m helping and I know that the work I do makes a difference.”
In addition to his wife, baby and sister, Pawlowski is survived by his father, John; three brothers, Robert, Christopher and Vincent; and his paternal grandmother, Stella Pawlowski.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Renee.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Mayor Michael Nutter also delivered remarks before the funeral Mass.
“Here we are again – five times in less than 10 months standing here in the Cathedral Basilica laying to rest another hero,” Ramsey said.
He praised Pawlowski for voluntarily transfering last summer from the 6th District to the city’s more challenging 35th District. “It didn’t take long before he was tested,” Ramsey said of Pawlowski’s success in wrestling a gun from a felon on a SEPTA bus last summer.
Mayor Nutter read a letter addressed to Pawlowski’s widow from President Barack Obama: “Dear Kimberly, I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of your husband, Officer John Pawlowski. Our nation is grateful for the dedication, pride and service of those who risk their lives to ensure the safety of our citizens and our neighborhoods.
“As you remember John’s life, I hope you are comforted in knowing that his commitment to his fellow man will not be forgotten. Michelle and I offer our heartfelt sympathy. May the cherished memories of John console you as you grieve and may his sacrifice be rewarded with eternal peace.”
According to reports, Pawlowski died after being shot repeatedly as he responded to an altercation at Broad Street and Olney Avenue in the Olney section of Philadelphia. Pawlowski was transported to Albert Einstein Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter.
Ramsey addressed some of his comments directly to the slain officer’s casket: “You did all you could do. This city and this department are much better off because you chose to serve. We will all miss you. Your tour of duty ended far too soon. And now, you stand roll call in heaven, alongside all those brave men and women that have fallen before you, and have no worries as you rest in peace. Your family is now our family and we will never ever leave their side.”
Interment was at Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or email@example.com.