Derek Harrell, 59, of Roxborough, a retired Philadelphia police officer who served on the force for 20 years, died Sunday, Feb. 12, of organ failure.
“It was his life dream to become a police officer,” said his widow, Carol. “He loved helping people.”
A Police Department spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Harrell joined the force in 1987 and retired in 2007. Carol Harrell said her husband served in several districts over his career, including the 25th, 12th, 18th, and 92nd.
Mr. Harrell was born in October 1957 to Robert D. and Richardean Harrell, and was the oldest of three children. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School, he worked as a painter for Common Pleas Court for several years before joining the police.
Mr. Harrell was considered the unofficial “mayor” of his block, his wife said.
“He could never go outside and not have 20 people driving by and blowing their horn to say hello or stopping to talk for a while,” Carol Harrell said.
"The one thing everybody always said about him was that 'Derek is a good guy. He will do anything for everybody.' "
When he was not working, Mr. Harrell loved to spend his time rebuilding, repairing and driving race cars, she said.
“Cars were his main passion. He loved to race cars at Atco, and we would always go to the annual car shows at Wildwood. We would make a weekend of it."
One of Mr. Harrell’s pride and joys was the 1973 Ford Mustang convertible that had been his wife's first car. “He rebuilt it and took it to the race track in Atco,” she said. “He made it into a race car.”
Carol Harrell was 17 when she met her future husband, then 19, in Strawberry Mansion. Although they both lived on 29th Street, about a block apart, they had gone to different high schools and had not met before a day she saw him riding a unicycle.
“I looked out the window and saw him. I thought he was handsome," she said. So she asked her brother to introduce him to her.
When Mr. Harrell came over, they sat on the front steps and started talking. “We were inseparable since then,” she said. They were married for 35 years and had been a couple for 40, she said.
In addition to his wife and father, Mr. Harrell is survived by a sister and a brother.
A viewing will be at 10 am. Monday, Feb. 20, at Shiloh Apostolic Church, 1500 Master St. A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Mount Peace Cemetery.