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Police officer had mild-mannered way of protecting his beat

February 26, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Now a practicing attorney and retired judge, John P. Corderman said he was just a boy attending Broadway Elementary School when he encountered Harry C. House, an officer with the Hagerstown Police Department.

"I was on an unauthorized leave - a personal errand of my own, shall we say - when Officer House saw me at a time when people my age should be in school," Corderman said.

The officer stopped him and before he knew it they were on their way back to his school, Corderman said. And from many accounts, Corderman wasn't alone in that experience by a long shot.

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A veteran of 35 years with the Hagerstown Police Department, Harry passed away Feb. 13 at the age of 81.

Harold Feigley, who worked with Harry for 13 years, said he remembers how Harry would spring into action when he saw students running out the back of South Hagerstown High School into Doub's Woods.

"Harry would put them in the back seat of his cruiser and take them back to school," Feigley said. "He'd tell the principal that he had some young people who wanted to get an education."

Feigley was "acquainted" with Harry long before he joined the police department.

"I also knew him when I was running the streets in the West End," Feigley said. "Always mild mannered, he had a nice way of telling us not to play in the streets that got our respect."

Nonetheless, Feigley said he once threw a snowball at Harry's cruiser, then he and his friends took off running.

"I fessed up later when I was a police officer," Feigley said. "Harry told me it cost him $5 of his own money to replace the light on top of his cruiser."

Harry's youngest sister, Judy Moore, said she usually saw her police officer/brother at family occasions since he was long gone from the family home when she was born.

"Still, I always remember the funny stories he told," Judy said.

Harry's oldest son, Larry, said it scared him that his father was a police officer.

"He'd come home bloody sometimes and with missing teeth," Larry said. "And there were the threats from some people he arrested."

Larry said his father always worked other jobs while he was a police officer to make ends meet for his family.

"He was a bouncer, a cook and even an assistant embalmer," Larry said. Plus, he often worked overtime as a police officer at parades, ballgames and even school dances.

Harry served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II. During that time, he picked up a working knowledge of Chinese - a talent that came in handy in later years, his son said.

"Dad knew a man who had a restaurant in Hagerstown, but whose family was still in China," Larry said. With his knowledge of the language and his big heart, Harry worked to have that family relocated to Hagerstown.

Sister-in-law Helen Martin said she once lived with Harry and his family for a while.

"A lot of us did - he was always helping somebody," she said.

Grandson Anthony Bagley said he could count on "Pap" for great stories about his police work, as well as tales stemming from his love of history.

"I always aced my history tests because of him," Anthony said.

Granddaughter Kerrie Taylor said she loved riding in "Pappy's" cruiser.

Dorothy McClung, a younger sister by four years, said Harry always sent home money for their parents and siblings when he was in the Navy.

After returning from the war, Harry was in the Reserves and worked for a while at Pangborn.

"Mom said he needed to get a 'real' job, so he applied at the police department," Larry said.

With no official police uniform, Harry was hired, given a gun and sent out on an accident call on his very first day. He later got a beat in the West End of Hagerstown.

"Harry taught me to know the people on the beat," Feigley said. "He said if you respect them, they'll respect you and give you information. Harry made me a better police officer."

A plaque on the wall of Harry's home credited him with saving three children from drowning in 1972. And apparently, that wasn't the only time Harry had come to someone's aid.

"When I was 18, I got a discount on a car I was buying because the owner said my dad had saved his life," Larry said.

Bob Hart, who retired from the police force six years ago, said he worked with Harry for nearly 20 years and had great respect for him.

"There were at least 30 retired police officers at Harry's viewing," Hart said.

Now that Harry and many others of his era are gone, Feigley said he fears there never again will be that kind of police officer.

"He was bighearted - there was nothing he wouldn't do for a person," Feigley said. "He was a gentle bear of a man."

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