More than 2,000 law enforcement officers from throughout the Bay Area paid their final respects to San Francisco police Officer John J. Blessing at a funeral Mass at Saint Cecilia’s Church in the Sunset District.
Blessing, a highly decorated 12-year veteran of the department, died Tuesday, Nov. 14, of a head injury he received when he was hit by a van during an undercover narcotics investigation. Blessing was 36.
He was assigned to the Special Operations Task Force and served with distinction, earning several citations for bravery, including a Bronze Medal of Valor in 1981 for confiscating a loaded firearm from a suspect in the Tenderloin.
Mayor Art Agnos stated “It is truly a tragedy when a distinguished officer like John Blessing dies while performing his duties.” He called the death “a loss to all San Franciscans” and ordered the city flags flown at half-staff.
Police said the suspect got away and the driver of the truck was not cited.
Monsignor James McKay told the congregation crowding the church, “Our son has died for us.”
He lauded the commitment of officers, who serve their city, adding, “Thanks to him who has given to us the ultimate gift of life.”
In addition to being pastor of St. Cecilia’s, McKay serves as a police chaplain. He told the congregation: “Every sworn officer knows that they may be called upon to give that gift at a moment’s notice.”
At the conclusion of the hour-long service, the officers emerged from the church and stood at attention while the coffin was brought out and put into a hearse.
A four-man mounted color guard led the procession slowly west on Vicente Street to 19th Avenue, on its way to Holy Cross Cemetery. A half-dozen fire trucks blocked intersections along the route.
The procession, consisting of more than 80 motorcycle officers and a similar number of patrol cars with emergency lights flashing, stretched for more than eight blocks and took more than 20 minutes to clear the area of the church. Most were from the San Francisco Police Department, but virtually every police department in the Bay Area sent at least one unit.
At the graveside, one officer presented Blessing’s 8-year-old son, Matthew, with a helmet that Blessing wore as a member of the department’s football team, the Centurions. Matthew’s twin sister, Jolene, looked on, as did Blessing’s widow, Denise.