In the decades since a bullet upended NYPD Det. Steven McDonald’s life, the countless gestures of support sustained the Malverne man’s family until his death, his wife told mourners in Rockville Centre Thursday.
“I cannot stress enough, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you for everything that everyone has done for us,” Patricia Ann McDonald, the mayor of Malverne, told the pilgrimage of police officers and private citizens gathered inside St. Agnes Parish Center.
She made the remarks six days after her husband’s 30-year successful fight to maintain a normal life amid the most abnormal circumstances ended with his death Tuesday in a Manhasset hospital, four days after he suffered an apparent heart attack.
Since then, praise for Steven McDonald’s have continued in a seemingly endless stream. Some marveled at how McDonald was able to forgive the 15-year-old who shot him in July, 1986 while he patrolled Central Park, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Others offered condolences, and warm recollections of their time with him.
An implicit message — tucked in amid all the shared memories and antidotes — was clear: The kindness, strength and resiliency McDonald displayed since the shooting sustained others, just like their concerns and support did the same for his wife and son.
Since his death, everyone from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and McDonald’s boss, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, to the other love of McDonald’s life besides his family — the New York Rangers — described him as a hero, a tenacious but loving fighter and a dedicated father and husband.
“Steven was a very special man,” his wife said. “And he would be so overwhelmed by the love that everyone is showing to his family.”
Crowds waited patiently to pay their respects in a long line that stretched around the grounds of the adjacent St Agnes Church to the next block.
With so many still waiting, a decision was made to extend the visitation, which began at about 2 p.m. but had continued well past the 4 p.m. cutoff and into the next scheduled viewing at 7 p.m.
McDonald’s fellow officers came and went, some in ceremonial dress and others in their department uniforms.
His son, NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, who accompanied his mother when she spoke with mourners, described his father as a patriot who dedicated his life to police work and the people the NYPD protects.
“My dad loved his country, the younger McDonald said. “He loved the city and more importantly he loved this job.”
Noting the family initially was in shock by the hundreds of tributes after his father’s death, Conor McDonald expressed gratitude for the enormous outpouring of support, adding that career in the NYPD was far from the only quality he hoped to inherit from his dad.
“The most important thing that we can take away from my father is the fact of his mission of love and compassion, forgiveness,” Conor McDonald said. “That cannot die. That has to keep going. That has to transcend. So I think that’s a job that I must take and continue forever. That’s what my dad would want.”
With Joan Gralla