Fallen Comrade

March 9-15, 2006
Fallen Comrade
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford Mourns the Death of a Police officer

While a bitter wind blew down Oxford Street in New Hartford Friday, a bright, shining sun, so rare in the Central New York winter, shone down on the gathered policemen and firemen who had come from all corners of Upstate New York to pay their respects to a fallen comrade.

Within the confines of St. John the Evangelist Church, heavy hearts said a final farewell to Joe Corr, 30, a New Hartford police officer and former volunteer fireman who was slain Monday after a robbery at a jewelry store in the village adjacent to Utica. But amid the evident somberness, the priests, family members and friends who offered their reflections all referred to the pride they felt in having known such a man as Corr. Bishop James Moynihan was also there to preside over the Mass.

At St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica, Corr died Monday night of a single gunshot wound. One of Corr’s suspected killers was shot and killed by U.S. Marshals Tuesday night in Delaware County, Pa. Walter Richardson was the suspect shot by the officers. A second suspect, John T. Healy, was arrested and arraigned as a murder suspect. Police were still searching for at least one more suspect last week and the $1 million in jewelry reportedly missing from Lennon’s-W.B. Wilcox Jewelry Store. Father Joseph Zareski, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in New Hartford, married Corr and his wife, Tracie, and baptized their daughter, Katie.

Father Zareski began his homily with the story of a little girl who tried to purchase ice cream only to be turned away by the store clerk because she wasn’t wearing shoes. When the girl wandered out of the store beside herself, a man offered her his own shoes so that she might go back in to get the ice cream. “You won’t really be able to walk in them but you’ll be able to slide along,” the priest narrated the man’s words.

Father Zareski explained that he introduced his homily with the tale in order to demonstrate Corr’s character. “He was a big man all right, big shoes, but he also had a big heart,” Father Zareski said, describing Corr. “Joe Corr had a big heart full of love. Full of love for his family, full of love for his community, full of love for his church and full of love for his God.”

Father Zareski went on to emphasize the importance of faith in times of crisis such as the death of a loved one or a trusted comrade. “Our faith is so important at this time,” he said. “But our faith in God must remain strong because this is so difficult.” Father Zareski introduced a phrase that would become a theme throughout each of the reflections offered at the service: pride. “Despite our sadness we are proud,” he said. “We are very proud of his bravery — he put his life on the line.”

Then the priest thanked all of the officers from the New Hartford police and fire departments who were present in the church and invited the other attendees to also show their gratitude. The clapping crowd got to its feet in order to offer the officers and firefighters a standing ovation. He also offered a few snippets of Corr’s life, referring to those activities he liked to engage in when not on duty. Among those were baseball and softball, carpentry, hunting and fishing and camping. But he stressed that at the center of Corr’s life was his family.

That portion of the Mass ended in the celebration of the Eucharist. It was followed by reflections offered by seven individuals, most of whom were close to Corr including Dave Corr, his father; Kelly Corr, his sister; Pat Wheeler, his godmother; Mike Collan, his uncle, and Raymond Philo, the New Hartford Police Department chief. The director of the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, Chauncey Parker, also offered a reflection.

“Today is the saddest day of my life but it is also a proud day,” Dave Corr said. “I say thank you God for those 30 days with Joe and all of the memories.” The father, who had also been a police officer, noted that Joe Corr loved his job passionately. “One of the proudest days of his life was when he got that badge pinned on him,” Dave Corr said. He relayed that same pride in Corr that echoed through the homily and each of the reflections saying, “I’m sure that as the good Lord looks down upon us today, he is as proud of our Joe as we are.” At the close of the Mass, Bishop Moynihan noted that his father had been a police officer in the City of Rochester Police Department and that he was all too familiar with the “thin blue line.”

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