Friends and colleagues turned out Tuesday to honor Capt. Frank Milillo, a veteran Philadelphia police officer who this month became the fourth member of the department to die from the coronavirus.
Milillo, 53, died on Dec. 3. He had served in the department for 31 years, most recently as the commander of Southwest Detectives. He also previously served as commander of the 3rd District, which covers parts of South Philadelphia, Pennsport, Queen Village, and Bella Vista.
The department praised Milillo’s “legendary” dedication to service. “Through his selfless actions during this crisis, Captain Milillo displayed immense dedication and commitment to his sacred oath,” it said in a statement.
The Inquirer reported last week that nearly half the roughly 6,500 employees of the Police Department have lost time this year either because they had COVID-19 or had been exposed to it, and that 500 alone were out in early December. Despite that, the department said it has been able to maintain current staffing levels.
Milillo, who is survived by his wife and three children, was honored at a morning funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Attendees followed social distancing guidelines, the department said.
Capt. Matthew Gillespie of the 18th District, which covers parts of West and Southwest Philadelphia, served alongside Milillo for the last two years and said he went to work with passion every day.
“He always talked about his family, he always asked about everyone else’s family — he was hardworking and fair and he cared about every single person in this city the same,” Gillespie said. “He just wanted to get justice.”
Capt. John Walker graduated from the police academy with Milillo and was neighbors with him in South Philadelphia. Walker — who now leads the 15th District, which covers parts of Frankford, Tacony, and Mayfair — said he and Milillo kept in touch as their careers took different paths through the department.
“He was always there to discuss questions, help, and was just a nice guy all around,” Walker said.
Milillo’s brother, Rocco, told CBS3 this week: “People say you either are all family or all work. Frank was family, but that meant work too, because his work was his family.”
Ten days before Milillo’s death, another veteran officer, Tab Ali, died of COVID-19. Ali spent 25 years on the force, including the last 14 years in the 5th District, which covers Roxborough and Manayunk.
“It seems as though everyone knew Tab,” the department said in a statement, “and whether that was by his gregarious nature, or running into him on a bike detail — he made a lasting impression on everyone he met.”