Schoolchildren sob giving last goodbye to their slain principal Patrick Daly eulogized as martyr and saint

December 22, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- They had traveled from Brooklyn to Staten Island to stand quietly in the rear of the church, brushing away their tears, and they had touched the coffin moving past. They had said a final goodbye to their school principal.

Now the long black hearse was carrying away the remains of Patrick Daly, and the crowds and the politicians were drifting off. But these three children from the Red Hook Houses were still sobbing. This particular killing had been, they said, just more than they could bear.

"Every year, somebody dies in December," said Malik Spencer, a sixth-grader at Mr. Daly's Public School 15 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. "I hate this. I want to get away from it."

Jesse Jimenez, an eighth-grader, cut in: "Yeah. Why we can't just move somewhere? Why they had to make guns? Why they had to make drug dealers?"

Quaun Braxton, a seventh-grader, his lips quivering, said: "I'm tired of ducking bullets every day. All you hear is Boom! Boom! Boom! And then you hear people screaming, every day."

Leaders of church and state in New York called Mr. Daly a martyr and a saint at his funeral yesterday, praising him for his long and selfless public service. They spoke with pain and passion, but the tearful presence of dozens of the slain principal's own students was the most eloquent tribute to Mr. Daly's legacy.

"We have been given an incredible gift in this tragedy," said the Rev. Louis Garaventa, a Jesuit teacher from Buffalo and a longtime friend of the Daly family, who gave the eulogy. "We have seen that it is possible to make a difference."

Even President-elect Bill Clinton -- apparently sensing the depth of the grief felt in New York and shared across much of the nation because of television -- paused yesterday during a news conference in Little Rock, Ark., to pay tribute to Mr. Daly, who was killed Thursday in what police believe was the cross-fire of a drug dispute as he walked through the Red Hook Houses in search of a truant pupil. Two teen-agers have been charged in the slaying.

Mourners at St. Joseph by the Sea Roman Catholic Church on Staten Island faced an altar ablaze with crimson poinsettias and crowded by 14 white-robed clergymen, including Bishop Patrick V. Ahearn, the vicar of the Archdiocese of New York.

The Rev. John Waldron, a priest in Red Hook who worked closely with Mr. Daly on community projects, reminded mourners that the Christmas season is a "time of giving and receiving."

"For those of us in Red Hook," he said, "the problem is in giving -- in giving back the man who for more than a quarter-century was our bright and shining star, who offered us hope in an abandoned area. He loved us, even to the point of giving his life in a final mission of caring. So we say, 'Father, can you send us another one like him?' "

Louis Staiano, a retired principal who worked closely with Mr. Daly, recalled, as the coffin was carried out, how once during a 1990 visit to Mr. Daly's school, he saw a screaming fourth-grader race into the principal's arms, apparently seeking solace from some childhood horror. Mr. Daly knelt to embrace the child.

"I've got you. I've got you," Mr. Daly told the boy, Mr. Staiano said.

"I wish you were my father," the child told Mr. Daly.

"That's how kids felt about him," Mr. Staiano recalled.

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