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Robert J. Levins, retired Philadelphia police inspector and head of security at La Salle University, dies at 77

He served in police administration, civil affairs, and internal affairs, on the anti-crime tactical unit, and received commendations for heroism, bravery, and community service.

Mr. Levins (center) enjoyed spending time with his children, Suzanne (front left), Elizabeth (front right), Robert Jr, (back left), and Francis.
Mr. Levins (center) enjoyed spending time with his children, Suzanne (front left), Elizabeth (front right), Robert Jr, (back left), and Francis.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Robert J. Levins, 77, of Stone Harbor, N.J., a decorated Philadelphia police inspector, former head of security at La Salle University, and a home security business owner, died at home Friday, Aug. 20, of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

One of four brothers who followed their father into the Philadelphia Police Department, Mr. Levins joined the force in 1964 as a patrolman in the 25th District and rose through the ranks to retire as inspector in 1995. During his wide-ranging career, he handled bar fights, domestic disputes, Vietnam War demonstrations, presidential visits, political skirmishes, and countless other important events.

He served in administration, civil affairs, and internal affairs, on the anticrime tactical unit, and received commendations for heroism and bravery, and awards for community service. In a 1987 article in The Inquirer, Mr. Levins said he joined the force when he was 20 because policing was more than a job for his family.

“It is really a way of life,” Mr. Levins said. “When we had family gatherings, we always had police there. You know it wasn’t like salesmen talking about sales. It was policemen talking about police work, kidding around about certain jobs. The Police Department dominates your life.”

After his retirement from the force, Mr. Levins became director of security and safety at La Salle.

“He always wanted to help people,” said his wife, Helen, who celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary Sept. 6. “Everyone knew about the Levins family. He was the yang to my yin. He was always calm and didn’t fuss about things.”

At La Salle, Mr. Levins hired and trained security officers, budgeted and purchased equipment, and coordinated with community leaders. He left the university in 2003, relocated from Philadelphia to Stone Harbor, and opened his own home security service that operated until last year.

“He was always striving to improve, to get ahead,” said his younger brother, Jerry. “He was a colorful guy and was always telling us stories. People loved it whenever he was around.”

Born at Pennsylvania Hospital on April 17, 1944, Mr. Levins graduated from Olney High School in 1962 and spent eight years in the Marine Corps Reserves. He graduated from the FBI national academy in Quantico, Va., and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at night at La Salle while he worked there.

He married Eleanor Eger, and they had four children. After a divorce, he married Helen Brown in 1986 after they met at a doughnut shop.

Away from work, Mr. Levins liked to play tennis and softball, ski, and remodel his home. He rode motorcycles, refurbished his 1965 Mustang, and took his wife ballroom dancing. He doted on his dogs, Gracie and Bonnie.

Mr. Levins was a Republican committee leader, and active with American Legion Post 331, the Stone Harbor Borough Council, and the Stone Harbor Museum. Wherever he went, Mr. Levins was a doer.

“He was a natural leader,” brother Jerry said, “and his people loved him.”

In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Levins is survived by daughters Elizabeth and Suzanne, sons Robert Jr. and Francis, nine grandchildren, three brothers, one sister, his former wife, and other relatives. His two sisters-in-law, Nancy Rydzewski and Linda Mueller, were his constant caregivers during his recent illness. A sister and two brothers died earlier.

Services were held in Philadelphia on Saturday, Aug. 28. A service is to be later in Stone Harbor.

Donations in his name may be made to Animal Aid USA, 200 Springdale Lane, Williamstown, N.J. 08094 and the Cape May County Animal Welfare Society, 40 Route 47 S., Cape May Court House, N.J. 08210.