The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was filled with police officers – current and former – from the Cleveland Police Department and representatives of other law enforcement agencies for the funeral Mass for Edward P. Kovacic on Oct. 4. Mayor Frank Jackson, some former police chiefs and other city officials also attended.
Kovacic, known as “Ed” to family and friends, died Sept. 30 at age 88 after suffering a stroke.
Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated the funeral Mass. Homilist and concelebrant was Father Frank Walsh, former pastor of St. Jerome Parish and a family friend.
Before beginning Mass, Bishop Perez offered his condolences to the Kovacic family and CPD. He also thanked Kovacic for his 40 years of service to his country and law enforcement.
Father Walsh, who was pastor of St. Jerome’s in Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood, where the Kovacic family lived for many years, described the former chief as “a policeman’s policeman.” Father said he knew the family from his years as pastor and offered his condolences to Kovacic’s wife, Barbara, his six children, their spouses, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the former chief.
He said the casket was covered with a white cloth to recall Kovacic’s baptism 88 years ago. And the paschal candle reminds us there is life after death.
“We give thanks for the gift of Ed’s life and his service to the city of Cleveland,” Father Walsh said. “He was a man of quiet faith who loved being a police officer.”
Father said Kovacic was born near St. Vitus Church in a strong Slovenian neighborhood of Cleveland. His parents were involved in politics and for a time his father served as a city councilman. Kovacic was a 1948 graduate of Cathedral Latin High School. He married Barbara Ward, his childhood sweetheart, in 1951 and was drafted for military service soon after, serving in Korea and Germany. After his discharge, he took the police academy entrance exam and began a long career in law enforcement.
The family settled in North Collinwood and became active at St. Jerome’s, where Ed coached CYO football for two decades. Father Walsh recalled how he bought new cleats for the team to ensure the players had the necessary footwear. The team later won the CYO championship.
“He always started practice or games with a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel,” Father said, “showing the players faith first. He showed them that strong men pray.”
Father Walsh said Kovacic “Took kids under his wing and would keep an eye on them. He would do the same for anyone. He was a policeman’s policeman and loved being on the street.”
He recalled a story about a man Kovacic arrested, then learned the man’s girlfriend was pregnant. He was concerned about her welfare and that of the baby, so he invited her to live at their house to ensure safe delivery of the baby. Kovacic later was asked to be godfather for two of their children, Father Walsh said.
He said Ward 8 Councilman Mike Polensek, who has represented the Collinwood neighborhood for 40 years, reminded him that Kovacic expected a lot of himself and others. The former chief established mini-stations in the city’s neighborhoods to help police become known in the area and develop relationships with residents and the business community.
Kovacic wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, Father Walsh said, adding that wasn’t always a good thing. But he was kind and compassionate and was a caregiver to his wife when she became ill.
Father Walsh said the St. Jerome community learned that Kovacic had fallen ill on Sept. 30 during the parish picnic, which also marked the start of the parish’s 100th anniversary year.
“The parish family saw God’s hand in that. And he died on the feast of St. Jerome. May God reward you, Ed. Safe home,” Father Walsh added.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara; six children, 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Burial was at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery.