A local artist is among Chicagoans mourning the painful loss of beloved Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, and he voiced his hurt with a powerful, heartbreaking story that shows Bauer's true kindness and sincerity.
Tony Passero said in a post on Facebook that he met Bauer while doing artwork for the Chicago Police Memorial Ffoundation.
They swapped some stories, and Passero recalled a night he spent painting the End of Watch Police Memorial Mural, which lists the name of every Chicago Police officer killed in the line of duty dating back to the force’s formation in 1837.
“I shared with him how painting the names of the Fallen Officers on the wall was one of the most solemn nights [painter Cyd Smillie and I] ever spent painting together, as it was all we could do not from bursting out in tears,” Passero wrote. “I don’t think Cyd and I spoke all evening.”
They painted by the light of a car’s headlights all through the night.
"When done ... all I said was, 'I never want to put a name on this wall again.' Cyd’s reply was, 'Amen,'" Passero continued.
When Passero finished telling Bauer the story of painting the mural, Bauer nodded and told the artist it’s all part of the job.
As time went on, Bauer would see Passero while he painted his "Horses of Honor," which benefit the Chicago Police Memorial Fund, and send him compliments via text message.
"The following year after I painted another horse and it was placed out on Michigan Avenue,” Passero wrote, "he sent me a picture of one of [the] mounted patrols horses nuzzling the Sea Horse I painted. It was one of the best thanks I ever got for an artistic output."
Once, Passero and fellow artist Jerry Rogowski were painting a mural, and a police officer pulled up in a squad car and handed them each a cup of coffee. "I’ll let you guess who [the officer was]," Passero wrote.
Bauer’s death was met with an outpouring of support, including an impromptu memorial set up at the location of the shooting near the Thompson Center and the 18th District police station that Bauer commanded.
People left balloons, crosses, prayer candles and notes at the memorial in signs of reverence for the fallen officer. But Passero feels he has a duty to make a contribution of his own.
"I said earlier I did not want to ever put another name on that wall. Now I feel I must."