ECPD Officer O’Donnell remembered


Emerson College Police Officer Peter G. O’Donnell died Thursday, Oct. 6 of complications from liver cancer. He was 68.

O’Donnell was a Korean war veteran who worked at Emerson for the past four years.

Director of Public Safety William McCabe, who knew O’Donnell for more than 60 years since the two grew up together in Charlestown, said he is saddened by the loss of his friend.

“Peter will be sorely missed by the officers and many of the students who knew him,” McCabe said.

O’Donnell was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on April 1. After fighting the disease through sessions of chemotherapy and radiation, O’Donnell succumbed to the cancer after it spread to his liver.

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A native of Charlestown, O’Donnell was a police officer with the Somerville Police Department.

He left the force to take a job with the Peace Corps and worked as a teacher in Chile at The International School where he met his wife, Julia.

“Peter never missed a day of work,” McCabe said. “His attendance was pristine.”

After returning to Massachusetts, O’Donnell taught at Charlestown High School and then returned to the Somerville Police Department.

After O’Donnell retired from the Somerville force, he joined the Emerson College Police Department (ECPD) and worked the day shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. during his four years with the ECPD.

McCabe said he recalled memories of O’Donnell waiting for his shift to end so he could pick up his children, ages seven and nine. McCabe said O’Donnell “lived for his children” and loved taking them to sports practices.

Emerson Police Lt. Eric Schiazza also said he had fond memories of O’Donnell.

“He was the [police] department judge,” Schiazza said. “If two officers were having a dispute over something, O’Donnell would settle the argument.”

The funeral was held on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at Saint Francis de Sales Church in Charlestown. Seven of the 14 ECPD officers were in attendance, including McCabe.

ECPD officers have been wearing a black band across their badges in memory of O’Donnell.

“He was a respected person in the force,” Schiazza said. “The younger officers looked up to him as a father figure.”

It is not yet known if there will be an on-campus memorial service.

O’Donnell leaves behind a wife, Julia; and two children, Peter Michael, 9, and Hugh, 7.