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Kevin Cullen

A badge of honor

Josh Redmond will be sworn in after he graduates from the police academy in November.

Josh Redmond will be sworn in after he graduates from the police academy in November.

Before Eddie Callahan joined the Marines, he told his mother because he thought she’d worry, but when he became a Malden cop, he didn’t tell her because he knew she would.

“He was already on the job when he told me,” Mimi Callahan said, sitting in the white house with black shutters near the Fellsway. “He knew I’d worry, and he was right.”

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Eddie Callahan was 4 years old when he heard his aunt screaming on a September night 50 years ago. “They shot him! My God, they shot him!”

Eddie’s father, Patrolman Edward C. Callahan, and his partner, George Hood, were shot while responding to a holdup at the A&P supermarket on Pleasant Street. Hood made it. Ed Callahan did not.

Mimi Callahan spent two days at his bedside at Mass. General. Someone asked if she would consent to having her husband’s liver harvested. This was back when that was unheard of, but she didn’t hesitate.

“I know my Ed would have done anything to save a life,” she said.

His liver kept a man from Roxbury alive.

Eddie Callahan grew up in Malden, where I grew up, and we all knew him as the kid whose dad was the cop who got killed. It was a burden, but he handled it as best as anyone could, and everybody liked Eddie because he was a good kid.

A bunch of us got out of Malden High in 1977, went to UMass Amherst, sat around Eddie’s dorm room listening to Steve Martin’s “Let’s Get Small,” and the next thing I knew Eddie was in Africa, working with missionaries. Then he was teaching kids on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Then he was working for Mother Teresa. Then he joined the Marines.

But he had to be a cop. A Malden cop.

“I wanted to become a police officer to know my father, to know the life he lived. And to honor him,” he told me 21 years ago.

He was doing exactly what his Irish-born grandfather, William Callahan, did after getting off the boat: walking a beat in Malden. Eddie laughed if you suggested that, after three generations, he might want to aspire to something more.

“Being a police officer means helping people,” he said. “I don’t think you can aspire to anything more than that.”

One night, he jumped from his cruiser and ran into a burning building and saved a Vietnamese family, doing what his grandfather did for Italian immigrants in the 1920s. The immigrant story, repeating itself.

Two months after Eddie Callahan told me that story, he was dead from cancer. He was 33.

Josh Redmond, the son of Eddie’s only sibling, Debbie, grew up hearing all the stories. As a toddler, he sat on his uncle’s lap and stared at his badge. When he was old enough, he was told his grandfather died in the line of duty. Unlike his uncle, he knew he had to tell Mimi Callahan.

“Nana,” he said, “I want to become a police officer.”

Mimi Callahan was a little worried, but a lot more proud.

“I’ve wanted to be a cop as long as I can remember,” 24-year-old Josh Redmond said, sitting next to his grandmother in the house where his uncle died. “I knew when I sat on my uncle Eddie’s lap.”

He will be sworn in after he graduates from the academy in November.

After Eddie died, Badge 57, which Eddie and his father wore, was retired. Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis, one of Eddie Callahan’s closest friends, reissued Badge 57, and Mimi Callahan will pin it on her grandson.

There’s a small traffic island, adorned with flowers, across from where the A&P used to be. On Monday, it was dedicated to Patrolman Edward C. Callahan, 50 years after he fell. His widow and grandson stood there, remembering all that was good about a father and son, their very presence embodying the essence of public service that runs in Callahan veins like blood, like life itself.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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