2000-01-01 / Front Page

Officer And A Gentleman

Edward McBride (left) poses with a friend during one of his many years of service in the U.S. Army.

By Heather Dalton

As a child, Edward McBride grew up in Far Rockaway. At the age of 20 he was inducted into the United States Army and served on active duty from February 28, 1963 through February 16, 1965. He was discharged in January of 1969. The following year he re-enlisted in the Army and served on active duty until 1973. According to information received from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. McBride was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Sharpshooter Badge with rifle bar.

Most local residents know Edward McBride better as Butchie, the homeless man who inhabits 116 street. In the early part of the day he would be seen on the boardwalk at 116 street. Later in the afternoon he could be found passed out on the Q22 bus stop on the boulevard. Local police officers and Emergency Service units would routinely end up taking him to Peninsula Hospital at night to sober up. It was a cycle that many people wanted to see come to an end.

Police Officer Billy Kelly of the 100 Precinct has been walking the 116 street beat for five years. He would see Butchie in the morning, when he was coherent, and the two would joke around. Apparently, Butchie has quite a sense of humor. Knowing that Butchie was a decorated Vietnam veteran, Officer Kelly took a real interest in helping him turn his life around.

During the unbearable heat wave this past July, Butchie was rushed to Peninsula Hospital and treated for complications due to heat stroke. He spent two weeks in the hospital recovering. That meant two weeks without a drink. Butchie remained sober an additional two weeks after his discharge from the hospital. Officer Kelly saw a glimmer of hope in what some would call a lost cause. He began encouraging Butchie more and more; assuring him he could overcome his addiction and lead a better life.

As the winter months approached, Butchie fell back into his old routine. Officer Kelly knew it was unlikely he would make it through the bitter cold months that lay ahead. In November Butchie was taken to a VA hospital but was turned away due to overcrowding. He was put on a waiting list. Shortly after that he mentioned to the officer that he had plans to stay with family in Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday. When Thanksgiving came and went and Butchie was still in town, Officer Kelly made a deal with him. Butchie agreed that if he wasn’t in Florida by December 10, Kelly, who was looking into a rehabilitation clinic upstate, could take him to a place where he could get help.

On December 9 administrators from Peninsula Hospital met with officers from the 100 Precinct to discuss how to best deal with Butchie’s situation. It was mentioned that Officer Kelly knew of a rehabilitation center that would accept Butchie if a few kinks could be worked out. Members of the hospital staff worked to clear up confusion about Butchie’s health coverage and meet medical technicalities. With a plan set in motion, Butchie agreed to enter the clinic. Not only did the people who attended the meeting join forces to get the job done, but they also collected clothes for Butchie to go away with.

On Tuesday, December 14 Officer Kelly, on his own time, drove Butchie to the clinic so he could get professional help to overcome his problems. On the ride up Butchie told Officer Kelly, "I’m starting to feel like a human being again."

The officer turned to him and said, "You were always a human being."

With the help of one very caring officer and the concern of staff members at Peninsula Hospital, Butchie has a second chance. His life is back in his own hands. Being treated like a human being has given him the sense of pride he needed to become a gentleman again.

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