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thedrifter
04-11-07, 10:09 AM
Amid the battle of their lives, kid, cop connected
By Joe Fitzgerald
Boston Herald Columnist

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Peter Borroni might have expected the Norwood police to grieve his passing with magnificent pageantry, which they did at his funeral yesterday. After all, he had been a member of their ranks for 32 years.

And he wouldn’t have been surprised by the presence of Marines at his graveside, there to present his kids with the flag that covered his coffin. He was certainly one of “the few, the proud,” having joined the Corps out of high school in 1968, when Vietnam was still the belly of a beast.

Even the roaring caravan of glistening Harley-Davidsons that escorted his cortege, bearing insignias of police departments throughout the region, might have been seen as predictable considering he, too, was a motorcycle cop.

He wouldn’t have been shocked even to have seen the crowd that packed the cavernous sanctuary of St. Catherine’s Church, since he was the consummate Townie.

But what surely would have grabbed his heart was the unheralded presence of a red-eyed woman no one knew, wearing a winter coat on which she had pinned a smiling picture of a bald-headed little boy.

Her name was Nancy McGugin and she’d flown in late Monday night from her home in Maryland, despite the fact she hates to fly and is five months pregnant. It was a miserable trip, but one she knew she had to make, just to once again say thanks to Mr. Peter.

That’s what her little boy, whose name was Adam, called him when they met in the radiation wing of Mass. General in 2004.

Adam was being treated for an inoperable tumor.

Borroni, who would undergo five surgeries in four years, was wearing his uniform that day.

“I can still see the way he looked at me,” he recalled 10 months later, upon hearing that Adam had died. “He couldn’t take his eyes off the uniform, as if I were some kind of a hero. Little kids like him don’t know who Pedro Martinez or Tom Brady [stats] are; God willing, that will come later. But they know who cops and firefighters are.

“The next thing I knew, we were down on the floor together, playing trucks, the way I did when I was a kid, only now I weighed 200 pounds.”

He ended up bringing his little friend to Norwood where a DPW crew put him at the wheel of a front-end loader, and firefighters put him at the wheel of a bright red engine, and the cops swore him in as their honorary chief.

More than two years had passed when cancer finally claimed Borroni at the age of 57 last week. But as Nancy explained to Norwood cops when word of her presence at his funeral spread, the story never ended because her gratitude never died.

“We could never have bought what Peter gave us,” she said. “God brought him into our lives. Talk about making a little boy’s dreams come true! To Adam, Disney World was Norwood.

“At his final birthday party, his 4th, we took him to a bowling alley with a bunch of other kids. And we sent an invitation to Peter, but only as a courtesy, never expecting him to attend. Well, I wish you could have seen Adam’s face when Peter walked in; Mr. Peter had come to his party, which was the best present he ever could have received.

“Yet we knew Peter wasn’t feeling well. His belly was bloated, and I think it embarrassed him because he mentioned it. But all I kept thinking was, ‘His belly is nowhere as big as his heart.’ ”

So, discomfort notwithstanding, she was back in Norwood yesterday, nodding amen to a message directed to uniformed mourners around her, urging them to appreciate, even in these cynical times, how much a friendly cop can mean to a wide-eyed little kid.

Ellie