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John Sharp, 72, anti-crime crusader

JOHN SHARP would walk along Frankford Avenue, greeting people and glad-handing like he was the mayor. In fact, there were those who called him the "Mayor of Frankford."

JOHN SHARP would walk along Frankford Avenue, greeting people and glad-handing like he was the mayor. In fact, there were those who called him the "Mayor of Frankford."

And like a good public official ought to do, John worked hard to make the city a better place. He was a longtime crusader against crime, especially drug-dealing, and, even though he weighed only about 135 pounds sopping wet, he wasn't afraid to look the dealers in the eye and dare them to make something out of it.

And there were few dry eyes among tough cops attending memorial services for fallen brethren when he sang "Danny Boy."

John Sharp, who worked for 35 years digging graves in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery before his retirement seven years ago, a kind-hearted people person who would do anything for you, died Saturday of cancer. He was 72 and lived in Frankford.

John was a member of Mantua Against Drugs and Town Watch, keeping an eye on the criminals. Both organizations worked closely with the police, and both he and C.B. Kimmins, longtime anti-drug crusader who recruited John into the campaign, were stalwart champions of the city police and always worked in conjunction with the cops.

And that was why they were usually present at ceremonies honoring officers.

"John didn't drive," Kimmins said, "so I would go to his house and pick him up to go to whatever we were doing. He was fearless. The dealers would say to him, 'We're gonna get you,' and he'd say, 'I'm not afraid of you.'"

John usually appeared at the demonstrations with his sisters, Ann Marie Sharp, now 62, and Margaret Sharp, now 65, and sometimes with a friend, Clara Abele, now 83.

They made a fearsome foursome, but sometimes when the threats grew louder and violence loomed, the ladies would cringe.

"I would tell them not to be afraid," Kimmins said. "Nothing is going to happen."

"He was very outgoing," Kimmins said of John. "He would walk up to perfect strangers and start a conversation. He'd ask questions about them, like an interviewer. I used to tell him he was like a talk-show host."

John carried a Police Department ID card, signed by former Commissioner John A. Timoney, on the back of which were the words, "The bearer whose photo and signature appear hereon has volunteered to cooperate with police in organizing drug marches and rallies in their community."

And that's what John, C.B., the ladies and many other volunteers spent years doing.

In fact, it was about 20 years ago that Kimmins, executive director of Mantua Against Drugs, first met John and his sisters.

They were coming out of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Fishtown, after visiting the tomb of St. John Neumann, and John recognized Kimmins as the legendary drug fighter.

"I'd like to help you," John told him. "How do I sign up?"

Kimmins assured him that there were no membership requirements, and told him that he'd pick him and his sisters up for the next demonstration.

"John might have been a little guy, but when confronting the drug dealers, he stood tall," Kimmins said.

The group also went to schools to talk about the dangers of drugs, and elsewhere to spread the message, and worked with addicts who wanted to kick their habits.

Ann Marie said her brother was "a very nice man. He was a people person. He liked to visit the casinos in Atlantic City and go to Penn's Landing."

"He wanted to make America, make Philadelphia, a better place," Kimmins said.

John was born in Philadelphia to John Sharp Sr. and the former Theresa Adams. He never went to high school and never married.

His sisters are his only survivors.

Services: Funeral Mass, 10 a.m. Thursday, St. Joachim Church, 1527 Church Street. Interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. *