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City officer retires after 50 years of service

When John McAndrew Sr. joined the city Police Department, the 10 tallest buildings that now stand in Baltimore had not been constructed, and most of the people who now work on the force had not been born.

The 72-year-old patrol officer retired Wednesday, joined at a ceremony by dozens of co-workers, friends and family members, ending 50 years of service.

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McAndrew began his service on June 1, 1961. He has served as an officer in the Western District since Aug. 24 of that year, a district that has historically been among the city's most dangerous.

"The role of this man in Baltimore has changed people's lives," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told the crowd Wednesday in the atrium at the police headquarters building.

McAndrew's wife of 47 years, Rebecca, said that her husband's dedication and love of his work has been the most important part of their life together.

"It's been the center of our life, the nucleus of our existence," she said.

This devotion to the police force has always been a part of McAndrew. He said that he "wanted to be a police officer my whole life."

He had no idea that he would carry this passion for 50 years of service. Asked how many police commissioners he had served under, McAndrew smiled, and said: Everyone. The answer is 13.

McAndrew said that watching other officers miss police work so much after they retired motivated him. "It inspired me to stay and keep working," McAndrew said.

He wasn't the only one inspired. His son, John McAndrew Jr., was so inspired by his father's love of police work that he became a police officer as well. He said that watching his father get ready for work every day and seeing the relationships that he formed with the residents of his district encouraged him to follow in his footsteps.

"Policing isn't the same today," said the younger McAndrew, a lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department. "He knew everyone, and they all knew him."

Rebecca McAndrew echoed her son's testament. She said her husband rarely missed work, no matter how sick he was or how tired he was feeling. She said that he once went to work so sick that he had to be taken to the hospital and spent two weeks there recovering.

It was the only time in his career that he took a sick day.

McAndrew said he would have liked to have served for as many years as allowed. But his health has deteriorated recently, and he decided to depart the force at the half-century mark.

"Father Time has knocked on our door," said his wife, who learned early on to accept her husband's devotion to his career. "At first I tried to fight it … [but] I knew it was larger than life."

McAndrew's will be one of three badges to be officially retired from the police force, an honor given only to those who "serve for so long, with such distinction," Bealefeld said.

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McAndrew and his wife said that they're planning on taking trips to historical sites around the area. The couple has two daughters, one son and three grandsons. They were all present at the ceremony.

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