Upd. January 13, 2017 | 11:39am
By Shawn Cohen, Lorena Mongelli and Natalie Musumeci
Legendary NYPD Detective Steven McDonald was remembered Friday at his Manhattan funeral service as a faithful man on a “mission,” beating the odds and becoming a “living example of forgiveness.”
About 15,000 fellow brothers and sisters in blue from across the country, family and friends turned out to bid a final farewell to the 59-year-old hero cop who was left paralyzed from the neck down after a teen gunman shot him in the line of duty in Central Park 30 years ago.
In a powerful tribute that drew a standing ovation from everyone at the packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown, McDonald’s NYPD cop son Conor said, “When God made my dad as a cop, he broke the mold,” calling his father “the real Superman.”
Conor recalled how his dad, a lifelong New York Rangers fan, Navy veteran and lover of The Who, spent some of their most “cherished” moments watching the Rangers play at Madison Square Garden and how McDonald called him every day at 5 a.m. at the start of his shift “to say good morning.”
“My father was always committed to me,” Conor said. “He did more than most able bodied dads could ever do with their sons.”
“My dad wanted to make sure his time on earth was not wasted and that is why he was so passionate in spreading God’s message of love and forgiveness,” said Conor, who proudly followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the ranks of the NYPD in 2010. “He made it his mission to have all of us realize love must win.”
Conor was promoted to detective in January 2016 and again to sergeant in September as his father looked on.
McDonald famously forgave the cowardly 15-year-old gunman, Shavod Jones, months after he was left for dead on July 12, 1986 after taking three bullets, leaving him quadriplegic, dependent on a wheel chair and unable to breathe on his own.
“Steven lived despite the odds, a fun and fulfilling life. In a serious reversal of roles, it was Steven, a paralyzed man, who touched the lives of so many people,” said McDonald’s wife’s cousin Msgr. Seamus O’Boyle during the homily at the church where McDonald – who died Tuesday days after suffering a massive heart attack – and his family were regular attendees for midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
“Steven loved life. He loved his family and rejoiced in life even though it wasn’t always easy,” said O’Boyle, who married McDonald and his wife, adding that McDonald loved to give advice to “knuckleheads.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio called McDonald, “a true hero in every sense,” while speaking to the crowded church of mourners, which included comedian David Letterman, Police Commissioner James O’Neill, his predecessor Bill Bratton, the city’s top cop before him, Ray Kelly, and former Mayor David Dinkins.
“Directly, he touched tens of thousands of lives, but in a greater way, millions were moved by his example because he became the greatest embodiment of what it means to be a member of the NYPD,” de Blasio said. “He was synonymous with all that is great about our police department and our city.”
While eulogizing his father, Conor gave a special shout out to Letterman, saying, “He’s always been by my dad’s side.”
Before the service, more than 100 police motorcycles led the funeral procession down Fifth Avenue that included the NYPD’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums band as a sea of blue filled the streets for several blocks.
Bagpipers solemnly played “Amazing Grace” as McDonald’s casket draped in the Police Department’s green, white and blue flag, was carried into the Fifth Avenue church by police pallbearers as thousands of cop filled the streets for up to 10 blocks south.
Conor stood at attention in his dress blues saluting his father’s casket as his mother Patti Ann, McDonald’s devoted wife of 31 years, stood next to him.
When McDonald was shot, his wife was three-months pregnant with their son Conor, who is now 29, the same age his dad was when he was gunned down.
The beloved third generation cop of Malverne, Long Island later returned to on active duty following the overcoming of his devastating injury, serving as a goodwill ambassador for the NYPD and traveling all over the world to places like Bosnia, the Middle East and northern Ireland, inspiring everyone he met.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill who first met McDonald in 1999 when he was the commanding officer of the Central Park Precinct said, “Steven is a life that underscores why most people want to become police officers.”
“Steven was one of the most remarkable men I ever met and one of the most fearless cops to ever don a uniform,” said O’Neill. “He helped redefine what a hero is in the NYPD.”
Many speakers mentioned Patti Ann – the mayor of Malverne – for her devotion to McDonald and the role she played in helping her husband carry on through the darkest of times.
Rangers legend Adam Graves also spoke at the service and said, “I’m here to make one thing very, very clear. Steven McDonald meant more to the New York Rangers and our fans than we could ever mean to him.”
Graves noted that the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is presented to a Rangers player every season who goes above and beyond for the team.
“Without a doubt receiving it was one of the most humbling moments in my life,” said Graves. “To be associated with Steven’s name was and remains one of my greatest privileges.”
Following the service, which Cardinal Timothy Dolan presided, Bratton told reporters, “It’s hard to get your arms around the fact that he’s gone because he was always here.”
“You never thought of Steven leaving and it’s so hard to imagine that he’s gone because he just seemed indestructible, despite the injury he suffered so many years ago,” Bratton said, adding that “you can’t speak of Steven without speaking of Patti and Conor.”
Bratton said, “Patti was with him every minute of every day and a love like that is a remarkable thing.”
Mourners were taken by McDonald’s miraculous story.
“He’s as close to a saint as I ever stood next to. I don’t think I could forgive someone who put me in a wheelchair for half of my life,” said retired NYPD cop Pearse Columb, 54, of Cold Spring, NY who attended the funeral with his two young 11-year-old kids.
Columb’s son Jude said of McDonald, “I thought him traveling and spreading the message of love was just amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Jackson Heights resident, Rita O’Toole, 80, whose son is an NYPD cop said through tears, “[McDonald] stood for everything New York. And he never lost his magnificence. The most magnificent thing about him, was when he forgave the lad who did it.”
Students from the World Journalism Preparatory, where McDonald was once a lecturer there, also attended the mass.
Julianna Korakis, 14, an 8th grader who has aspirations of being a cop, said he will remember McDonald’s message of “forgiveness.”
“He was wise for doing that. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen this many police officers in my life,” Korakis said.
Cops from the LAPD, Chicago, Malverne, Boston, the New Jersey State Police and the Maryland State Police showed up to pay their respects.
McDonald will be laid to rest at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.
Additional reporting by Larry Celona