A tribute to DiDomenico

James J. Binns addresses officer Joseph DiDomenico’s family and friends, as well as fellow police officers, during a plaque dedication ceremony in Joseph’s honour. He was killed in 1953 in a car accident at Point Breeze. (Maria Pouchnikova)

Joseph J. DiDomenico set the standard in public service for his family.

DiDomenico, a Philadelphia police officer who died in the line of duty in 1953, had two sons who became firemen. Two grandsons are Philadelphia police officers, one is a city fireman and another is a former volunteer fireman in the suburbs.

Recently, those public servants and many other members of the DiDomenico family — many of whom live in the Northeast — gathered at 19th and Dickinson streets in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Joseph J. DiDomenico.

DiDomenico, who lived near 16th and McKean streets in South Philadelphia, joined the police department in August 1944 and worked his entire nine-year career in his neighborhood. He worked in the 41st District at 24th and Wolf streets before moving to the 17th district near 20th and Federal streets in 1952.

At about 11 p.m. on Oct. 30, 1953, a Friday, he and partner Americo Donatelli were transporting a stabbing victim to the hospital in patrol wagon 171 when it collided with an Engine 24 fire truck at 19th and Dickinson.

DiDomenico was killed. Donatelli suffered injuries that ended his career.

At the time of his death, DiDomenico was 38. He was survived by his wife, Margaret. The two met while he was taking citizens to the old St. Agnes Hospital and she was a nursing student.

The couple had three children: Joseph Richard, Thomas and Cathyann. Joseph Richard and Cathyann attended last week’s ceremony. Thomas is deceased.

Patrick DiDomenico, who works in the police department’s criminal intelligence unit, initiated the process to honor his grandfather with a plaque. Another grandson, Michael, is a corporal in police radio. A grandson Jeff is a fireman with Engine 45. A grandson T.J. was a volunteer fireman in Springfield, Delaware County.

The guest list included Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and members of the Italian National Police Service.

Members of the 17th Police District stood behind the DiDomenico family.

“The officers of the 17th Police District will always have Joseph DiDomenico’s back,” said Bob Ballentine, recording secretary of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

An Engine 24 fire truck was also at the site. An honor guard attended the beginning of the ceremony before making the short trip to the funeral of Charles Stewart, a police stakeout officer who was badly wounded in a shootout with the radical group MOVE in 1978 in Powelton Village. Stewart died Oct. 5.

The plaque dedication program is a joint effort of lawyer James J. Binns and FOP Lodge 5. Binns gave the visiting police officers a greeting in Italian.

The plaque was the 108th for a Philadelphia police officer and the fourth one in 2012. It was the 260th overall for Philadelphia-area officers, firefighters and other emergency responders.

The sponsor was police Lt. John Przepiorka.

The plaques are usually installed in the ground a day before the ceremonies, but rain forced the DiDomenico plaque to be installed the day after the ceremony.

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 twaring@bsmphilly.com