Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sudden Death of Village of North Pelham Police Chief While on Duty in 1934

Michael J. Fitzpatrick was a no-nonsense and successful Irish cop who served the Village of North Pelham as a police officer and, eventually, its Chief of Police for nearly 23 years.  He was an important player in a power struggle with the North Pelham Mayor who appointed him as Chief of Police, Thomas James, as Mr. James exited office in 1929.  I have written about that interesting power struggle which led to the brief removal and prompt reinstatement of Fitzpatrick as North Pelham Chief of Police.  See Fri., Apr. 24, 2015:  The North Pelham "Speakeasy Section" Created Quite a Stir During Prohibition.

Born in Queens County, Ireland on January 6, 1879, Chief Fitzpatrick came to the United States at the age of 23 and settled in the Village of North Pelham shortly after arriving.  He married Katherine McManus and, as a young man, served as a coachman for a number of prominent families in Westchester County.  He became a Villlage of North Pelham Police Officer in July, 1911.  He was appointed Police Chief in 1926 and served for eight years until his death at the Village of North Pelham Police Desk in Town Hall on Fifth Avenue on Saturday, April 7, 1934.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of the front page article that announced Chief Fitzpatrick's death to the readers of The Pelham Sun on April 13, 1934.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"The Late Michael J. Fitzpatrick"

Stricken While at Desk in North Pelham Police Headquarters; had Been Police Officer for 22 Years.

Michael J. Fitzpatrick chief of the North Pelham police department died suddenly on Saturday while preparing for his work at North Pelham police headquarters in the Town Hall.  Death was caused by a heart attack.  The chief had been on duty for only a week after a three months illness with heart disease.  He was 65 years old and would have completed his twenty-third year as a member of the police department in July.  

Police officials of many Westchester County communities paid tribute to the deceased chief of police at the funeral which was held on Tuesday morning.  Delegations from many police departments formed an escort of honor for the hearse as it passed through the streets of the village from the home of the deceased at No. 444 River avenue to St. Catherine's R. C. Church, where the Mass of Requiem was celebrated.  As the ccortage passed Fire Headquarters the old fire bell which has not been used for several years, was tolled.  Village and town officials attended the Mass which was said by the Rev. Father Vincent de Paul Mulry.  Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

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Chief Fitzpatrick was born in Queens County, Ireland on January 6, 1879.  He came to the United States when he was 23 years old, and came to North Pelham soon after that.  He was engaged as a coachman in prominent Westchester households before he was appointed a patrolman of the North Pelham police department.  In January 1921 he was appointed Captain by Village President James Reilly.  In April, 1926 he was appointed Chief by Village President Thomas J. James.  He was in active command of the police department until January when he became ill and was on sick leave until April 1, when he returned to duty, apparently fully recovered.

On Saturday he came to police headquarters in the middle of the moring and had a conference with Mayor Eugene L. Lyon.  At noon he was seated at his desk in conversation with desk officer James Murphy and Matthew Fitzpatrick of North Pelham.  The latter was not a a relative of Chief Fitzpatrick.

During the conversation, Chief Fitzpatrick suddenly slipped sideways out of his chair.  Officer Murphy summoned Dr. E. S. Newel and Father Mulry.  They arrived a few minutes before the chief died.  Father Mulry administered last rights of the Catholic Church.

Dr. Amos O. Squire, County Medical Officer was summoned and he gave as the cause of death chronic myocarditis.  The body was removed to the Brunner Mortuary.

 Before the funeral many officials paid their last respects to the late chief of the North Pelham police department.  Mayor Lyon and the members of the police department marched to the home of the deceased on Monday night for a short visit.  

Among those who sent floral tributes where:  Lieut. Bruce Dick and Family, The Westchester County Policemen's Benevolent Association, The Ladies' Auxiliary of the A. O. H., Thomas J. James, The Pelhamwood Association, the Mayor and Board of Trustees and Officers of the Village of Pelham, Mayor Eugene L. Lyon, the North Pelham Board of Trustees, the Pelham Comfort Society, Receiver of Taxes Robert A. Cremins, former Supervisor and Mrs. David Lyon, Fire Chief Irving J. Wallach, the Pelham Heights Police Department, former Fire Chief William Templeton of Pelham Manor, Street Commissioner Joseph J. Gerard, the Sanborn Map Company,. Pelham Manor Police Department and The Pelham Sn.  

Officers of the North Pelham Police Department acted as pallbearers.  

Attending the funeral were Mayor Lyon, former Supervisor David and Mrs. yon, Captain George Duff of Pelham Heights, Chief Michael J. Grady, former Chief Philip Gargan of Pelham Manor, Mayor Leslie Bateman, Chief Inspector Michael I. Silverstein, Captain Herman Mattes, former Chief George Atwell of Mt. Vernon; Fire Commissioner Dominic Amato, former Village President Thomas James, Tax Receiver Robert Cremins, Village Clerk John Prtichard, Chief Irving Wallach, Town Attorney George Lambert, Dr. Augustine C. McGuire, former Mayor Edward B. Harder and many officials and former officers of the town and villages.

The following police departments were represented in the guard of honor.  Pelham Manor, Pelham Heights, Port Chester, Mount Vernon, Tuckahoe, Peekskill, Bedford, Mamaroneck and Eastchester.

Chief Fitzpatrick is survived by his wife, Mrs. Katherine McManus Fitzpatrick; two daughters, Katherine and Helen and two sisters, Mrs. James Donlon and Mrs. Arthur Sutton, both of New Rochelle.

On Wednesday night the North Pelham village board unanimously adopted a resolution praising the work of the late Police Chief Fitzpatrick and extending the sympathy of the village to his family.  An engrossed copy of this resolution will be presented to the family.  The resolution follows:

'Whereas, Police Chief Michael J. Fitzpatrick of North Pelham died on April 7, 1934 while on duty at the desk in police headquarters, and 

'Whereas Chief Fitzpatrick had at the time of his death completed nearly 23 years on the North Pelham police department, and 

'Whereas this service was of the highest order of excellence and marked by consistent adherence to the highest ideals of efficiency and faithfulness to police work and

'Whereas said Michael J. Fitzpatrick had earned for himself the respect of all the police officers who worked with him and of all the citizens of North Pelham with whom he came into contact,

'Now, therefor, be it resolved that the Board, by this Resolution give expression of its deep appreciation of the work done by Chief Fitzpatrick for the Village of North Pelham and direct the Village Clerk to transmit to Mrs. Fitzpatrick and the family of the late Chief its sincere and heartfelt sympathy for the loss which they have sustained and which the village feels deeply.'

The board also adopted a resolution expressing its appreciation of the action of neighboring communities in sending police officers to attend the funeral of the late chief."

Source:  M. J. FITZPATRICK CHIEF OF POLICE DIED SUDDENLY -- Stricken While at Desk in North Pelham Police Headquarters; Had Been Police Officer for 22 Years, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 13, 1934, Vol. 25, p. 1, cols. 1-2 & p. 2, cols. 5-8.  

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