Metro

KEVIN CULLEN

Chasing Katy, again

Robert Hayden initially approached Kathleen, his future wife of 50 years, while skating on the ice at Dorchester Park when she was 14.
Robert Hayden initially approached Kathleen, his future wife of 50 years, while skating on the ice at Dorchester Park when she was 14.

When Bobby Hayden began chasing Katy Desmond, she was doing pirouettes on the ice at Dorchester Park. She was 14, almost two years his senior.

He started skating concentric circles around her, drawing closer and closer, until she could avoid him no more. They stood before each other, in the middle of the ice.

“I want to be your boyfriend,” Bobby said.

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“You need a psychiatrist,” Katy replied.

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Bobby Hayden was nothing if not persistent. They ended up going steady and before you knew it they were married and Bobby was taking the police exam.

His dad was a Boston cop and it was preordained that he would be one, too. He loved the street, and if you look up the words “street cop” in the dictionary, Bobby’s picture is next to them.

After a rash of muggings on Boston Common, he volunteered to dress up as an old woman, to walk around as a decoy. When an unfortunate mugger confronted Bobby with a knife, Bobby knocked him out with one punch.

Bobby would have been happy to remain a patrolman, but Katy kept pushing him to take promotional exams, and he kept passing them. Even as he rose through the ranks, the street remained his office and cops ran through walls for him.

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He had a soft spot for poor kids and homeless people. He was tough and stoic in the face of all the tragedy and misfortune he encountered. But I remember a couple of times that mask slipped.

Bobby was running the Anti-Crime Unit in 1989 when officers found a chubby 9-year-old boy with bags of crack in his hands and $68 in rumpled bills in his pockets. Bobby had one of his cops sit with the kid at the police station in Dudley Square, and sent others out to find the teenagers who put the kid up to it.

“Some of the cops had tears in their eyes,” Bobby said, perhaps not realizing his own eyes were moist.

In 1994, after a vigil for murder victims was held at St. Catherine’s in Charlestown, an unhinged white guy lunged at Patrolman Quione “Q” Riley, a black cop who was then-Police Commissioner Paul Evans’ driver, parked outside the church with Evans’ wife and 9-year-old son in the back seat.

The guy was screaming racial epithets at Q while punching him through the driver’s side window. Bobby jumped on the guy and subdued him. Bobby’s ribs were bruised, but what hurt even more was seeing the pure hatred in that guy’s eyes. It bothered Bobby deeply.

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Katy and their four kids kept him grounded. After 28 years with the Boston Police Department, he served as police chief in Lawrence and Brockton.

He could never stop being a cop. When the Twin Towers fell, Bobby raced down to Manhattan and dug through the rubble with his bare hands.

Ten years ago, when he dove into the aisle to subdue an unruly passenger on a flight, Katy didn’t bother to look up from the book she was reading.

“I knew how that situation would end,” Katy told me. “I didn’t know how the book would end.”

When Katy died last year, a big chunk of Bobby died, too. They had been married for 50 years. Not many 73-year-olds get tattoos, but after Katy died, Bobby had words from their favorite song tattooed on his left arm: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

Katy had murmured that on her deathbed.

The last time I talked to him, two months ago, I asked how he was doing.

“I miss Katy,” Bobby Hayden said.

The cancer he fought fiercely for five years finally killed him the other day. And everybody who knew Bobby is terribly conflicted. Sad that we’ve lost him. Happy to know that, in a realm much different than this, he is back at it again, skating concentric circles around Katy, drawing closer and closer and closer, until they are face to face, again, this time forever.

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