Police Benevolent Association
of the City of New York, Inc.
Patrick J. Lynch, President
Caribbean Life, February 4-10, 2022 5
William Brown had done a lot for his
country, and his city. As a member of the
trailblazing, all-black 369th Infantry Regiment
– also known as the Harlem Hellfighters – he’d
battled on the front lines at D-Day and the
Battle of the Bulge. And he’d seen plenty of
action as an NYPD cop, too, rescuing people
from burning buildings and collaring armed and
dangerous criminals. He had earned more than
his share of medals, both police and military.
But, in the winter of 2015, when
community affairs officers from the 113th
Precinct first encountered him, they knew
nothing of this. All they knew was that he
was a 94-year-old man who lived alone in a
heatless house in Queens and was now in the
hospital suffering from hypothermia. When
they did learn of his law enforcement and
military pedigree, however, they went above
and beyond the call of duty to look after
their brother officer.
They came to know a frail but lively
One of the medals William Brown
earned on World War II fields of
William Brown with two of his
113th Precinct friends, Detective
Tanya Duhaney (left) and Detective
gentleman, quick with a smile, a joke or a
story, who had joined the NYPD after World
War II and retired as a detective in 1968. For
a few months, they chauffeured him to doctor’s appointments, helped him
with personal affairs, got him properly registered with the Veterans
Administration, visited him every Sunday and saw to it that his oil burner
remained in good repair. But they did more than that. They restored to
him the family he had lost.
Inevitably, the treasured friendship didn’t last very long. In a few
months, in May 2016, William Brown, 95, succumbed to one of his several
heart ailments. But even then, the officers found, his death didn’t end his
need for assistance. Having no living relatives meant he would have
to be buried in an unmarked grave in Potter’s Field, they were
told. Not a chance, they decided.
The officers claimed the body and arranged for an
NYPD-blue funeral at the First Church of God in St. Albans,
Queens. Then, they saw to it that veteran Infantryman William
Brown was buried, with the playing of taps and with full
military honors, alongside many of his Harlem Hellfighter
comrades in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.
Now he was officially a part of NYPD and U.S. military history.
Patrolman William Brown of the 79th Precinct