The captain looked sharp in full uniform…though he was deceased.
I attended his wake.
I worked with Harry Hassler in Transit Police Dist 20 in the 1970s. We were both cops.
But Harry soared to the rank of captain while I meandered my way to detective.
The cops who worked with me in New York City’s subways seem to die these days with the speed and frequency of trains at rush hour. It’s becoming a blur. It’s dizzying at times. But some obit notices make the speeding train screech to a halt.
It’s easy to say someone was a “great guy” when he’s recently deceased because that fits so many of my fellow officers.
But Harry was unique for a cop. He was unusually pleasant, to the point one might think he was in the wrong job. But I think Harry was exactly what made him perfect for the job.
Harry was also a very religious man. He was a chaplain with the NYC Transit Police Retiree Association and NYPD, he was also an evangelist.
Harry was an adept writer and posted often in the Transit Police, “Beyond the Line” magazine. He interviewed many oldtimers for their unique perspectives. He asked me for such an interview, I said, sure, but I kept putting it off. Did I mention my meandering lifestyle?
Of course, there were messages of love, of caring, at the Massapequa Funeral Home: Cards, flowers, photos, photo videos. But the most powerful to me was this poignant piece of art made by Harry’s grandkids. It speaks so eloquently. I got permission from Harry’s son, Scott, to take this photo:
I spoke with Scott, in uniform too, although recently retired from “the Job” where he had been assigned to the Counter-Terrorism Division of NYPD. Wow! Here stood Harry’s son, retired? That really rattled my age denial. They didn’t even have a counterterrorism unit when I was on the job. When I came on the Transit Police in 1966… we didn’t even have radios. https://tinyurl.com/bld-stl
I spoke with Harry’s daughter, Maureen, who told me Harry had intended to someday write a book, but he never did. At least Harry and I had that in common. Maureen’s thinking that perhaps she’ll be the one to write one. After speaking to her even just for a few moments, I think so too.
I spoke with Harry’s wife, Barbara who told me how Harry loved trains, and about his dream of being on a train that took off for Heaven. It sounded like Harry saw it as an epiphany. He was so impressed with the dream that he had train passes made to hand out to others. Barbara handed one to me.
Barbara also told me of Harry’s meeting with a depressed man. The man didn’t know what to do about his depression. So Harry suggested that the man write to people telling them what good they are doing in this world. The man did so, eventually writing to 360 people, many of whom responded to the man telling how his letter had changed their lives. Barbara told me how it had changed the man’s life, too.
Harry message to all of us was to send messages of acknowledgment to people, messages of caring, even of love, to those near us…and those not so near.
Harry’s very life was his message, as are the lives of all of us, I think. I think what we do, what we say, does matter. It can change someone’s perspective on life, on those they come in contact with, it can change their perspective on themselves.
Maybe we all need to put aside our often aloof attitudes, maybe reach out more, express ourselves. See the good in people that is always there. We just might be part of a bigger unfolding than we can see, that we can imagine…from here.
Categories: Life messages