September 16, 2004

Family, thousands bid farewell to “bravest, most caring” dad


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Newsday photo / Daniel Goodrich

After tributes Wednesday from NYC mayor and police commish, 9-year-old Kevin Rafferty wanted mourners to know one more thing. His father was the most "caring, kind, loving and brave father" a kid could have.

As thousands gathered yesterday to mourn slain New York Police Det. Patrick Rafferty, many remembered the Bay Shore resident's most endearing qualities: his warm nature, his love of country music, his willingness to help whenever called upon.

But for Kevin Rafferty, the detective's 9-year-old son, the lasting memory of his father's love and strength could be encapsulated in a single camping trip, when he chased away a bear and assured Kevin that no harm would come to the family.

"My dad was always the bravest, most caring, kind and loving father anyone could have," he told the tearful crowd gathered at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in East Islip. "I felt safe and secure knowing my dad was there to protect us."

Rafferty, 39, and Robert Parker, 43, detectives in Brooklyn's 67th Precinct, were shot and killed Friday night while responding to a domestic disturbance in East Flatbush. Before he died, Rafferty, a husband and father of three young children, managed to shoot the alleged assailant in the foot, and Marlon Legere, 28, was soon arrested. Legere has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and criminal possession of a weapon. He is being held without bail.

Outside St. Mary's yesterday, thousands of officers from places as far away as Washington, D.C., lined up along Montauk Highway to pay their respects to Rafferty. The silence as they stood at attention was broken only by the roar of motorcycles leading the funeral procession, the roll of the drums and then a lone bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace." As Rafferty's flag-draped coffin was carried into the church, his family, including wife Eileen, daughters Kara, 12, and Emma, 4, and Kevin, who wore his father's police hat, somberly filed in for the Mass.

Friends and family -- including mother Joan, brothers Kevin, Dennis, Henry and Brian, and sister Colleen Albanese -- and then a stream of NYPD officers followed. Mourners packed the small church, which holds 400 people, and listened to the Rev. Steven Peterson, who urged faith in the midst of grief.

"Thank God for Patrick's life, a gift of love from God to us," he told mourners.

Thousands more stood outside the modest church to listen to a broadcast of the service.

Carl McLaughlin, a 21-year city police veteran, who was Parker's and Rafferty's friend and colleague, stood outside.

"They were two great guys who gave their all for the city," he said. The duo, with Rafferty's tall slender body and Parker's heavy-set build, "looked like the number 10" together, McLaughlin said, laughing.

The men at the precinct called Rafferty "The Cook" after he fried them a turkey for Thanksgiving one year, McLaughlin said. He recalled Rafferty's love of line dancing and remembered him in a gray suit with cowboy boots.

"He was a modern-day McCloud," he said, referring to actor Dennis Weaver's character Marshal Sam McCloud from the popular '70s television series.

Inside, mourners remembered Rafferty's compassion, his block party pig roasts, his handy-man fumbling and his love of Hank Williams and Jimmy Buffet.

Among the speakers was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who on Tuesday, posthumously promoted Rafferty and Parker to first-grade detectives.

"Every day Patrick Rafferty put himself in harm's way to protect the rest of us," Bloomberg said.

Also on hand was NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly who called Rafferty a "fearless and relentless pursuer of dangerous criminals" who possessed a deep-seeded calmness and composure. But he also recounted the detective's tender side, and recalled Rafferty holding the hand of a man who had been shot nine times, comforting him during the ambulance ride to the hospital.

In a lighter moment, Kelly recalled how the detective loved to go duck hunting, but that many found the ducks were "seasoned" with buckshot. Rafferty's best friend and first partner on the force, Joe Calabrese, echoed Rafferty's fondness for hunting, saying, "The only things that won't miss Pat are the ducks in Long Island, the rabbits in Maine and the perps in Brooklyn."

But of all the kind words spoken of Rafferty during the service, few pulled the heartstrings like the ones spoken in a tiny voice by Rafferty's son as he said goodbye to his father.

"There was nothing I couldn't talk to my dad about ... I love my dad more than anyone in the world and I wanted you to know that," Kevin told the sobbing crowd, which broke out into applause.

Afterward, as the coffin was brought out, two buglers played "Taps." Above, seven police helicopters flew in formation and Rafferty's daughter Emma waved at them. Kevin, still in his father's hat, stood taut and saluted his dad's coffin before it was brought to St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.

Parker's wake will be today from 2-4 and 6-9 p.m. at Grace Funeral Chapels in Brooklyn. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn.