William J. Daley, 88, highway patrolman

William J. Daley joined the police Highway Patrol in 1954. He also was an instructor in motorcycle riding.
William J. Daley joined the police Highway Patrol in 1954. He also was an instructor in motorcycle riding.
Posted: May 23, 2014

William J. Daley, 88, a Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol officer for nearly 50 years and a World War II Army veteran, died Saturday, May 17, of cardiac failure at Brunswick Novant Medical Center in Bolivia, N.C.

A resident of Northeast Philadelphia, Mr. Daley had moved to North Carolina to be with his daughter as his health failed.

On Tuesday, his body was flown to Philadelphia International Airport, where it was greeted by dozens of uniformed police officers, many riding the 800-pound motorcycles he so loved.

The officers escorted the hearse to the Louis A. DiGiacomo Funeral Home in Somerton. A police honor guard carried Mr. Daley's body into the home while police commanders and other officers saluted.

Mr. Daley joined the force in 1954 as a member of the elite force that patrols the city on motorcycles. The unit also guards dignitaries, and performs in the annual Hero Thrill Show to benefit the families of fallen police officers.

An instructor in motorcycle riding, Mr. Daley loved his job. He was a tough judge of students, and not everyone passed.

"If the person wasn't capable of managing [the big Harley-Davidson], he didn't want them hurt," said his daughter, Patti Dugan.

Mr. Daley acted in and trained the 16-man drill team of highway officers that performed in the thrill show at John F. Kennedy Stadium each September. Former Highway Patrolman John "Chick" Kurtz recalled feeling nervous before the first of his 16 appearances in 1971.

"He could tell," Kurtz said from his home in Venice, Fla. "He said, 'Come over to the house, and we'll discuss everything.' We did that, and when I left, I felt much more confident."

Police Inspector Mike Cochrane, a former commander of the highway unit, described Mr. Daley as "just a good, decent man.

"I never heard him curse. He was caring. He loved the Highway Patrol. Next to his family, it was his life," Cochrane said.

Mr. Daley retired from the police force, but rejoined after his wife, Agnes Mainart, died in 1991. They had been married for 43 years. He nursed his daughter, Debbie, until her death from ovarian cancer in 1998.

"He would go to Mass every day with another widower and volunteer every day at Immaculate Mary Home. That's what kept him going," his daughter said.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Daley graduated from Roman Catholic High School. He served in the Army as a private from April 1943 until November 1945, when he was honorably discharged.

He saw combat as a machine gunner in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns, and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon, and two Bronze Stars.

He was a member of Philadelphia League of the Sacred Heart for Catholic Police, Firemen and Peace Officers.

Because he was a policeman, Mr. Daley knew he might be killed in the line of duty, so he was careful to tell members of his family what they meant to him. He wrote each a letter. In the late 1960s, daughter Patti received hers:

"I want to tell you how much I love you and how much it has meant having you as my daughter. If and when God does take me, do not mourn me, just miss me and remember me. Because no man could want a richer life than I have had because of you."

Beside his daughter, Mr. Daley is survived by two grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a brother.

A visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 22, and Friday from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m., at L.A. DiGiacomo Inc. Funeral home, 1055 Southampton Rd., followed by a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Christopher Church, 13301 Proctor Rd.

Burial will be in St. John Neumann Cemetery, Chalfont, with full police and military honors.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105, or Amigos de Jesus Orphanage, 126 Woodland Ave., Malvern, Pa. 19355.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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