Saluting a life of service

Mourners recall police officer's dedication, humor

February 24, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

Working the midnight patrol shift in Anne Arundel County's western district, Frank Anthony Spadaro racked up an impressive number of arrests. His work earned him accolades. During a career spanning two decades, he rose through the ranks to become a detective.

And he became known for his practical jokes.

On a recent morning, dozens of Anne Arundel County police officers in dress blues and white gloves, along with detectives in their trench coats, wore badges with a black line stripped across as a symbol of loss. They gathered to remember Spadaro, who died Feb. 12 at his Glen Burnie home.

He was 45 and died of natural causes, police said.

During funeral services Wednesday at the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Glen Burnie, the Rev. J. Bruce Jarboe, described Spadaro as a street-smart, old-school officer, and someone "with deep respect for the community members he served."

Fellow officers saluted his casket, as six of his colleagues carried it from the church. Spadaro's wife, Mary, was flanked by two sons, Andrew, 18, and Frank, 14, as they left the church.

Spadaro had been a corporal, but was posthumously promoted to sergeant. That promotion, said department spokesman Lt. Jeffrey T. Silverman, was a sign of the respect Spadaro had earned and "how much of an asset to the agency he was."

"Anne Arundel County is fortunate to have a cadre of talented and outstanding officers who routinely go above and beyond the call of duty," said County Executive John R. Leopold in a statement. "It is my honor to salute and acknowledge the outstanding service of Corporal Spadaro."

Spadaro grew up in Pasadena and graduated from Chesapeake High School. He began as a patrol officer in Baltimore County, where he worked for 8 years, before joining the Anne Arundel County department in 1994.

In 1999, he was nominated for two awards - the Baltimore Sun Police Officer of the Year and the Maryland Law Enforcement Officer's Distinguished Service Award.

"Frank Spadaro exhibited a tireless work ethic, devotion to service, and a passion for helping others to assist those in need," said Police Chief Col. James Teare in a statement.

"He was steadfast in his dedication to professionalism and was well-liked and respected by members of the police department and will be sorely missed. He will always remain in our memories as a dedicated member of the Anne Arundel County Police Department."

In written remembrances, his fellow officers recalled his charms. When a fellow officer whom he did not know was shot in the arm, Spadaro made a pot of homemade pasta sauce and brought it to his home in Howard County. Always first to arrive for work at 6 every morning, he liked to eat every two hours and would get grumpy if he didn't eat his lunch promptly at 11 a.m.

And he played pranks on his colleagues, giving them a small jolt with a trick "shock pen" as they hurried to write their reports. A fellow detective resembled Richie Cunningham from the television show Happy Days - so Spadaro taped a picture of the actor over the officer's face on a family photo on his desk.

Jarboe recalled the officer, who was 6-foot-3, patrolling the halls of the church as the congregation's young people attended religious study.

"Of course, he need not say a word at all," Jarboe said. "Just his physical presence was enough to say, `no running, behave in the hallway.'"

Cpl. Mike Krok, supervisor of the department's school resource unit, knew Spadaro when they were rookies at the Wilkins District of Baltimore County.

Krok rode motorcycles with Spadaro, whom he called "his brother" in their spare time.

"He was big into family," Krok said. "He enjoyed being with his boys. Wrestling with them. He enjoyed that. It wasn't just a father-son relationship, it was father, son and friend."

Spadaro was buried at the Glen Haven Memorial Park.

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