Harry J. Gaitley, 82, of Broomall, a retired Philadelphia police officer, died of sepsis Tuesday at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Gaitley served on the police force for 17 years until retiring in 1972. He spent most of his career as a patrolman and loved being an officer, his niece Marge Ewing said.

At 17, he dropped out of West Philadelphia Catholic High School to join the Navy during World War II. He served aboard the destroyer Monssen in the Pacific. In October 1944, the ship participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, which resulted in the defeat of the Japanese fleet. Mr. Gaitley suffered permanent hearing loss during the battle, his niece said. He later attended reunions of destroyer "tin can" veterans and was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans. He had an interest in naval history, his niece said, and corresponded with David Sears, author of The Last Epic Naval Battle: Voices From Leyte Gulf.

After his discharge, Mr. Gaitley earned a high school diploma and worked for the U.S. Postal Service before becoming a police officer.

He is survived by a brother, Ford; and nieces and nephews.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. today at St. Philomena Chapel, 41 E. Baltimore Ave., Lansdowne. Friends may call from 9 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.