‘We never forget our fallen’

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

The last quarter-century has been torturous for the loved ones of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Danny Boyle.

Since Boyle’s Feb. 4, 1991, murder at the hands of a convicted armed robber and early parolee, the rookie officer’s family, including parents Pat and Nancy Boyle, have endured a litany of court hearings and appeals — one of which resulted in a “final indignity” last year when a now-retired Philadelphia judge vacated the killer’s death sentence.

Yet, a ceremony held at a Somerton playground last Wednesday provided the Boyles, their friends and Danny’s fellow cops with perhaps a temporary respite from their prolonged torment. The Officer Daniel Boyle Memorial Playground unveiled a new outdoor mural depicting the fallen cop among several other images that represent his lasting impact on the community.

“Danny’s legacy is not from his death, but from the organizations named in his honor,” said Pat Boyle, a retired police detective.

One year after Danny’s death, family and friends created a scholarship fund that, since then, has given almost $650,000 in support of students attending several parochial schools such as St. Christopher’s in Somerton and Archbishop Ryan High School, as well as St. Veronica’s at Sixth and Tioga streets, where Pat Boyle attended grade school.

Additional fundraising efforts have led to the establishment of the Officer Danny Boyle library at St. Veronica’s, a former Archdiocesan school now managed by Independence Mission Schools. During last Wednesday’s ceremony, Pat Boyle delivered another $7,000 check to the school principal, Sister Eileen Buchanan.

Boyle’s legacy is also felt strongly at his namesake playground, at Kelvin Avenue and Napier Street. Founded in 1958, it was originally known as Somerton Playground, said Lou DeCree, a longtime youth sports organizer in the neighborhood and vice president of the Somerton Civic Association. Danny Boyle, who was 21 at the time of his death, played there as a youngster. In 1992, City Councilman Brian O’Neill backed an effort by friends and family to rededicate the recreation facility.

“It’s a bittersweet time because, especially in the Northeast, there are too many playgrounds named after fallen police officers,” said Leo Dignam, deputy commissioner in the Department of Parks and Recreation. “On the other hand, the Boyle family has been great in helping this become an oasis for kids in a city that’s full of violence.”

Over the years, numerous public officials have continued to back improvements and programs at the center, including O’Neill, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and state Rep. Kevin Boyle, DeCree said. Former School Board member Marty Bednarek routinely sponsors a summer basketball program, and the Ironworkers Local Union 401 recently built new batting cages.

Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby also paid tribute to the slain officer and his family.

“You are truly an inspiration to us,” Ross said. “No amount of time will take away the grief. We know this. Obviously, he’s always in our thoughts.”

“This shows that no matter what happens over time, Danny’s not forgotten,” McNesby added. “It’s been a mandate of Commissioner Ramsey since he’s been here and I’ve continued it. We never forget our fallen.”

In highlighting artist Gregg Packer’s new mural, Pat Boyle recalled how a former colleague of his made it possible. John Pagliaccetti and the elder Boyle worked together in the Central Detective Division. Nowadays, Pagliaccetti does concrete work. Boyle asked him to resurface the wall to create a smooth clean surface for Packer. Pagliaccetti refused compensation for the work.

The community spirit continued with Packer. His design includes renderings of Danny Boyle in his dress uniform, the Philadelphia Police shield, one of the playground’s new play areas and a silhouette of a cop walking hand-in-hand with a little boy and girl. While he was applying the paint, a local girl approached him to ask what he was doing. When she returned the next day, Packer asked her if she wanted to help him. Now, Moira Regan’s name appears alongside the principal artist’s in a lower corner of the mural.

“Danny, you have given us all a job to do,” Pat Boyle said, “to take care of all the kids throughout the city.” ••

MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Remembering Danny: Nancy Boyle, mother of slain Police Officer Danny Boyle, stands in front of a mural created in his honor. The Officer Daniel Boyle Memorial Playground unveiled a new outdoor mural portraying the fallen cop among other images that represent his lasting impact on the community. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO