The streets around St. Patrick’s Cathedral were blocked off as the son of The Liberties in Dublin went on his final journey to St. Patrick’s and then his burial place, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY with all the pomp and circumstance he deserved. Among those who spoke at his funeral mass were author Tom Wolfe, Commissioner William Bratton and Timoney's son, daughter and granddaughter.
From early Tuesday morning the streets around St. Patrick's were blocked off as thousands of police gathered in a long blue wall stretching four blocks and several levels deep to say farewell to a beloved commander.
As Mass time approached two flag-bearers holding an Irish Tricolor and the Stars and Stripes aloft slowly began a funeral march down Fifth Avenue. After that came an escort of motorbike police and a vintage police undertaker vehicle bearing the coffin.
The cortège knew no haste as it slowly wended past the cathedral and the honor guard to the strains of “Amazing Grace.”
5th Ave lined with a sea of blue as we lay to rest former NYPD 1st Dep Commissioner & Chief of Dept, John Timoney pic.twitter.com/fTNk4Dceze— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) August 23, 2016
Timoney’s remains were carried into the church followed by his wife Noreen and the rest of the family as thousands looked on.
The NYPD paid one of its greatest tributes to an immigrant Irishman from one of Dublin's poor inner city neighborhoods who became one of the most beloved and admired cops in American history, once named as America’s best cop by Esquire magazine.
Thousands had shown up on Monday at Campbell’s Funeral Home for the day-long wake, and St. Patrick’s was filled for the last hurrah of one of the greatest Irish success stories in recent American history
At the wake Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch best summarized Timoney.
“He started on the beat and went to the top,” said Lynch. “He stood up for cops and he stood behind cops. It’s a terrible loss.”
Timoney would have loved that tribute. Being a cop's cop was what drove him to great heights, always working to improve their lives, as he did with everyone. To Timoney, blue lives, black lives and white lives all mattered equally.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton gave fulsome praise to Timoney. In a Daily News piece, he said, “John Timoney was one of a kind. But he was also the last of one kind.”
Bratton remembered one extraordinary tribute to Timoney from a fellow officer.
“When I became police commissioner for the first time in 1994, I remember interviewing Timoney for the chief of department job. I also interviewed Mike Julian. Julian was full of ideas, and at the end of the interview, I asked him if he thought he would be a good chief of the NYPD, and he said this: ‘Yes, I think I would. But Timoney would be better.’
“When I interviewed Timoney and John began to talk, between the rapid staccato of ideas and the Irish brogue mixed with a Bronx accent, and given my then even thicker Boston accent, we talked for an hour, and I don’t think either one of us understood two words the other one said.
“But I knew there was something I liked about this young, brash chief. I gave him an unprecedented jump from one-star chief in the policy office to four-star chief of department.”
Timoney did more than anyone expected to prove Bratton right. In New York, Philadelphia and Miami, homicides fell like skittles when Timoney arrived in power.
Who knows how many lives he saved through such simple adjustments as banning shooting at fleeing suspects in cars? And he did it all coming from the kind of working class Irish background and as an immigrant to the city he came to love and serve.
He moved here with his parents and a brother and sister when he was 13-years-old. His father died tragically young and his mother then returned to Erin's shores.
But Timoney, just 17, had the sense of America's potential in his mind. He and brother Ciaran decided to stay and become cops. It was an audacious move.
John would have loved the spectacle of the great and the good gathering to pay their respects to him, this giant of a man who made cities much safer wherever he ended up – number two cop in New York or top cop in Philadelphia or Miami.
His love for Yeats would have come to the fore if he could have been there and looked around the packed cathedral and been asked what was the most important aspect of his life and career (apart from family). He doubtless would have said, “Think where man’s glory begins and ends, and my glory was I had such friends.”
Farewell John. Ni fheicimid do leitheid aris (we’ll never see your likes again).