Gerald 'Jerry' Hartman, 57, former PAL director and teacher

Posted: July 25, 2014

GERALD "JERRY" Hartman had a special way of relating to young people.

He knew how to reach them on their own terms. "It was as if he was a kid himself," said his older brother, Raymond Hartman.

"If you were a kid, he could identify on your level," said his nephew, Raymond Hartman III. "He never forgot what it was like to be a kid himself."

And Jerry had plenty of opportunity to relate to young people, as a Philadelphia police officer assigned to the Tacony Police Athletic League Center, and as a language-arts teacher at Wissahickon Middle School.

But it was not only kids who came under Jerry's influence.

"Jerry knew how to relate to anybody, any age, especially young people," said his nephew, a former Philadelphia police officer now with Bensalem Township police. "You wanted to be around him."

Jerry Hartman was a 21-year veteran of the Police Department, who resurrected the Tacony PAL Center after it had been allowed to deteriorate. He went on to become a popular middle- school teacher after his retirement. Jerry died on July 17 of cancer. He was 57 and lived in Southampton, Bucks County.

Jerry was a runner-up for the Daily News' Fencl Award in 1990. The award was named after the late Police Inspector George Fencl, head of the civil-affairs unit. Jerry was cited as director of the Tacony PAL Center.

The citation noted that some of the kids at the PAL center came from anti-drug programs. "Hartman has earned their trust so thoroughly that when youth gangs decide to rumble, kids go to him, and he is able to prevent the fights."

Jerry was an active member of St. Bernard Church in Mayfair, where he served as a eucharistic minister, coached its sports teams and took delight in introducing new priests to the parish.

One of them was Michael F. Burbidge, who arrived at St. Bernard in 1984, became auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, and is now bishop of Raleigh, N.C.

"Jerry broke him in," said his brother, a former Philadelphia police detective. "He told him about the parish, how the kids were, how things were done."

Burbidge celebrated Mass at Jerry's funeral Sunday at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Southampton.

As testaments to the high regard in which Jerry was held by his former charges, at both the PAL center and Wissahickon Middle School, many left notes at the church for his funeral.

One Wissahickon student jokingly explained why his homework wasn't ready: "I lost it fighting a kid who said you weren't the best teacher in language arts."

Another student wrote, "I hated language arts, now I love it."

Another note stated: "Teachers who love teaching teach children to love learning."

Jerry not only taught at Wissahickon, he was also a coach and athletic director.

He was the Daily News' "Cop of the Week" in 1999. He was quoted as saying his toughest challenge with PAL was "to get the young boys or young girls involved who are not necessarily a star athlete but still like to play.

"A lot them lack the self-confidence to get out there and try it. Once you get them out there, they won't stop playing."

His Tacony center at Aldine and Cottage streets had a full range of activities, from basketball to golf to tennis and even, for a time, dance, as well as all sports in between.

Billy Snyder, who succeeded Jerry as director of Tacony PAL, said Jerry always worried about everybody else, never himself.

"He was always helping people," Billy said. "He touched so many lives."

"He always wanted to be in PAL," said his brother, a cop for 25 years and a former detective in the Northwest Division. "He went out of his way to get so many kids involved."

Jerry was born in Philadelphia to Anne and Raymond Hartman Sr. He graduated from Father Judge High School and went on to Holy Family University, where he earned a bachelor's degree and master's in education.

He also is survived by his wife of 18 years, the former Patricia Rusden; one son, Thomas Hartman; two stepchildren, Michael Hopkins and Holly Walsh; a sister, Arlene Carr; and six grandchildren.

Burial was at Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem.

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