Pa. boy given officer's funeral after succumbing to cancer

Local police officers treated 8-year-old Joey Fabus the same in death as in life — like a fellow officer


By Andrew Goldstein
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BETHEL PARK, Pa. — Local police officers treated 8-year-old Joey Fabus the same in death as in life — like a fellow officer.

Dozens of police officers and emergency workers from surrounding communities and beyond paid tribute at the young cancer victim's funeral Monday along with hundreds of community members at a two-hour Mass.

"He not only dreamed, but he lived the dream," said the Rev. David J. Bonnar. "And he lived it strong — Joey strong."

Joey, who got to live his dream of being a police officer in June when he was sworn in and spent the day on patrol with the Bethel Park police, died Wednesday after a months-long battle with an inoperable brain tumor. On Monday, he was given an officer's funeral at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Mt. Lebanon.

Asked why he participated in the funeral, Upper St. Clair police Cpl. Rob McMaster said, "because law enforcement sticks together."

A white casket was carried out of the church as the color guard stood by. Officers, some from as far away as Virginia, waded in thick slush to salute Joey one final time.

Emergency vehicles lined Washington Road from the church to a nearby cemetery as silent red lights reflected on the white snow.

Two ladder trucks, one from the Bethel Park Fire Department and one from Mt. Lebanon, raised their ladders and hung a large American flag between them. Following the funeral, the procession passed under the flag and into the cemetery.

"Joey strong" became a rallying cry for the community. Outside the church, friends held up signs along the road that read "Stay Joey Strong."

But Joey's story reached farther than his own community.

"He's been a beacon of hope to everybody, and he's pulled this community together," said police Lt. Phil Redford from the Wheeling, W.Va., police department.
Lt. Redford said his department had heard about Joey and sent him a patch.

During his day with the Bethel Park police, he went on a ride-a-long with Officer Tom Rigatti. They pulled over a driver, who turned out to be Officer Rigatti's daughter, for running a stop sign. Joey cited her, but when they went in front of the district judge, Joey suggested leniency.

As a fan of law enforcement, Joey was remembered for playing cops and robbers and building forts. He also loved going to school, and hanging out with friends and family, and he had a smile that endured even during the most trying times.

But his family remembered him for another reason.

"I told Joey once, when I grow up I want to be as strong as you are," his uncle, Jeffrey Fabus, said during the eulogy. "And I meant that."

Copyright 2015 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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