A new life for Manayunk mural

A fallen police officer is honored with a fresh new mural three decades after being killed in the line of duty. 

More than 50 people turned out for the rededication of a colorful memorial to a fallen police officer in Manayunk Sunday.  

Officer Garrett “Gary” Farrell was killed in the line of duty in September of 1980 at the corner of Wayne and Chelten Avenues. 

Members of the Roxborough-Manayunk community joined the Farrell family, officers of the Fifth Police District and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 for the afternoon ceremony on Main Street. 

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“I am just so happy and so overwhelmed that so many people remember him,” said Mary Farrell, Gary’s mother.

On Sept. 27, 1980, Farrell was shot and killed while chasing down a thief who had beaten a 72-year-old woman and stolen her purse.

The thief was a career criminal out of prison on a weekend pass.

Farrell was taken to Germantown Hospital, a place the Farrell family knew all too well. 

“I was shot six years ago, we took him to the doctor who saved my life then,” said William Farrell, Gary’s oldest brother.   “I was shot only a few blocks from where Gary was shot.  I never thought lightning would strike twice,” he said. 

When that day began, there were four Farrells on the Philadelphia police force: Gary, his brothers, Michael and William, and his wife, Stephanie.  

Initially, the 37-feet long, eight-feet high mural was to be dedicated to local soldiers in Vietnam.

A week into painting, Farrell was killed.

Artist, Donna Tinneny Persico, was so touched by the incident that she changed the dedication to honor his memory. 

In September 2010, resident Jim Lamont got the ball rolling on the restoration of the 30-year-old mural.

He persuaded Persico, the original artist, to bring it back to life. 

Painting began in October.  Gary’s widow, Stephanie, was also involved in the restoration process. 

For two weeks, Persico directed volunteers in cleaning the crumbling mural, retracing outlines, then repainting the wall on Main Street, by Green Lane. 

The restored mural also includes 20 sponsorship spaces to one side.  

Paints, brushes and other supplies were provided by Stanley’s Hardware in Roxborough.  

Editor George E. Beetham Jr. of The Review newspaper gave the opening remarks and served as the event’s emcee.

“As journalists, we often have the sad duty of reporting officers being killed in the line of duty,” said Beetham. “I don’t know a better tribute to the life of Officer Farrell than the mural here.”

The FOP plans to put a plaque on the wall of the mural above Farrell’s badge, which will be similar to the plaque laid at Wayne and Chelten Avenues. 

“I am going to instruct officers of the Fifth District to keep this place sacred so that we can remember Officer Farrell,” said Police Lt. Sean Lynn.

A day by day account of the mural restoration can be found at http://manayunkmural.blogspot.com/

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