May ?, 1864 (Bridgeport, CT) – October 14, 1930; 64 years old
Married to Elizabeth Elliot Stratton (1865-1942) in 1885
6 children; 4 daughters Mabel, Inez, Hazel and Lavinia and 2 sons Raymond and Everett
Local address: 49 Gregory Boulevard
From The Norwalk Hour, October 14, 1930
SERGEANT FRANK STRATTON IS KILLED; DRIVER ARRESTED FLEEING FROM SCENE
Veteran Policeman After Two Marines With Alleged Stolen Car When Struck;
Pair Apprehended Later In Stratford
Sergeant Frank S. Stratton, 64, in point of age, the oldest member of the Police Department, early today was instantly killed in the line of duty when a hit-and-run motorist struck him as he was placing two deserting Marines under arrest, on the Post road, near the Westport town line. The fleeing driver was caught after a one-mile chase through Peat Swamp.
Edmond Bodine, 18, of 66 North 34th Street, Flushing, the operator of the death car, admitted to the police that he tried to get away from the accident scene. When quizzed for a reason he claimed that he did not realize the enormity of what had happened. He is being held on a charge of manslaughter, and an additional count of driving without a license has also been placed against him.
The two Marines, James Forrestal and William T. Chenowith of the USS Antares who were in a stolen car, made their escape when Officer Paul McGrath pursued Bodine. They were recaptured however, several hours later in Stratford and confessed the desertion and car theft to the local authorities.
Shock, resulting from fractures of the skull and left leg, was the immediate cause of Sergeant Stratton’s death. Medical Examiner Dr. William H. Slaughter of Darien, who examined the body in the absence of Dr. William W. Tracey, declared. The dead officer was badly mutilated by the impact, his clothing was torn and contact with the cement pavement left a gaping wound in his head.
Sergeant Stratton and Officer McGrath, on night patrol, had been at the scene of an almost fatal accident in Winnipauk shortly before 5 a.m. and they were in the act of ringing in the police bar at the corner of Westport and East Avenues when an auto, traveling at a terrific rate of speed, whirred up North Avenue and over Westport Avenue hill. Sergeant Stratton remarked his suspicions to Officer McGrath and the two policeman started in pursuit.
Within a few feet of the city line, they overtook the speeding New York machine and forced it to halt. The car contained the two Marines and Frank Rich of Rye, NY. In questioning the trio, the officers learned that Rich, who was hitchhiking his way to Meriden where he was to get a shotgun re-bored, had been picked up by the Marines in Rye.
When the Marines could produce no registration for the auto they were placed under arrest and Sergeant Stratton and Officer McGrath proceeded to remove them to the police car, preparatory to taking them back to the First District Police Station. It was at this time that the fatality occurred.
In order to facilitate the removal of the prisoners from one car to the other, Sergeant Stratton had flagged approaching traffic with his flashlight. A machine containing three young men on their way back from the Boston College – Fordham football game in Boston; G.R. Houck, John Mooschian, and Michael Hall, all of 6 East 108th Street, New York City, halted a short distance behind the police auto but the Bodine machine with Bodine at the wheel and Joseph Vaterwel and William Shea of New York City beside him, pulled out from behind Houck’s auto and darted ahead.
Sergeant Stratton, in the path of the oncoming auto, was picked up by the machine, being wedged between the right fender and the radiator. His protruding legs caught Officer McGrath standing a few feet in front of the spot where Stratton had been struck, and knocked him to the ground. The collision with McGrath was sufficient to pad Sergeant Stratton’s body from the Bodine car and he fell to the roadway almost beneath the wheels of the moving auto.
Bodine did not stop. He increased his speed and put out the lights on the car, according to the police. Officer McGrath left Sergeant Stratton in Rich’s care, and from the running board of Houck’s auto he chased after Bodine. At no time was the death car out of sight, and when Bodine pulled into the driveway of Lynn’s Garage, adjacent to the Campus Inn, the officer saw the act. The ruse failed and instead of driving past the garage and the Bodine auto, hidden by the darkness, Officer McGrath pulled up alongside of it and placed the driver under arrest.
Rich, in the meantime, lifted Stratton into the police car, and with Officers Fred Miller and John Monohan, who had arrived at the scene in response to a hurry call, he was rushed to Norwalk Hospital. He was found beyond medical assistance, however, having succumbed immediately.
Taking advantage of the excitement attendant to the fatality and the chase, the Marines fled into the woods at the side of the Post Road, abandoning their Stolen car. Another hurry call was sent into headquarters and additional officers were dispatched to the scene. A corps of local policemen scoured the woods until word was received from Stratford that the two men, answering the description broadcast over the teletype from headquarters here, had been stopped. Thy had ridden to Stratford in a truck.
Detective Lieutenant Martin Lengyel, with Officer McGrath and Rich, went to Stratford and Rich identified the two men. At first adamant, the pair finally broke down at the local station and in statements to Lieutenant Lengyel, they stated that they stole the auto found in their possession. They did not know the owner of the car.
Rich’s story was corroborated by the Marines and the police allowed the Rye man to go free. The Marines are being held without bonds
Examination at the police station revealed that Bodine had no operator’s license and under questioning declared that he had never had a license. He reiterated that he failed to stop because he didn’t fully realize what had happened.
Bodine’s father, Edward Bodine, also appeared at the station. He had been riding in a second car some distance behind his son. They were both on the way home.
Bodine’s bail for the two charges of manslaughter and driving with a license, has been set at $2,000. His two companions, Vaterel and Shea, are being held as material witnesses under bonds of $500.
The front of Bodine’s car, where it hit Sergeant Stratton, is badly stove in. The car is at Vaast Brothers’ garage.
The fatality occurred in the Post Road, in almost the identical spot where two men had shot Detective Thomas Hunt several years ago and made their escape. Detective Hunt was on his way to Bridgeport with the pair. They were recaptured.
Although Sergeant Stratton was a native of Bridgeport, born in the Park City 64 years ago, he resided in Norwalk the greater part of his life. He came here 45 years ago and from that time until his death was a resident of the Second District.
His first position in Norwalk was as an engineer for the Hatch and Bailey Company; later he was employed by the Norwalk Iron Works, and 28 years ago, in 1902, he was appointed a member of the Police Department of the old City of South Norwalk by Mayor Mortimer M. Lee. He continued as a policeman until his untimely demise, being appointed a sergeant in March 1929. Sergeant Stratton had a spotless record in the Police Department.
Shortly after coming to Norwalk, the deceased married Miss Elizabeth Elliott of this city. He survives him, with six children: Raymond E. of Norwalk, Mrs. Mabel (Charles) Carnegie of Sound Beach, Mrs. Inez (Joseph) Newbauer of Stamford, Everett of Norwalk, Mrs. Hazel (Stanley) Tomasetta of Norwalk, and Mrs. Lavinia (Randolph) Starr of Norwalk. There are also six grandchildren and one sister, Mrs. George Fox, wife of Detective George Fox of the Bridgeport Police Department.
Sergeant Stratton was a member of St. John’s Lodge, F. and A.M. Butler Lodge, I.O.O.F., and Uncas Tribe, I.O.R.M. He attended St. Paul’s Church.
The deceased was a first cousin of P.T. Barnum’s famous General Tom Thumb.
Mayor Anson F. Keeler expressed extreme regret over the death of Sergeant Stratton:
“Sergeant Stratton was one of the most efficient police officers in the department,” said Keeler. “His death is a distinct loss to the department, The Board of Public Safety and myself certainly extend our heartfelt sympathy to the members of his family.”
Chief of Police William R. Pennington said: “In the death of Sergeant Frank S. Stratton, the department has suffered a keen loss. He was a policeman first and last always, whose record in the department has been unblemished and whose allegiance to duty has always been uppermost in his mind. I have worked with him as a supernumerary and a regular for thirty years and have found him to be conscientious and ever willing. The entire department mourns his loss and its sympathy is expressed to his family.”
Funeral arrangements, which are in charge of Director David W. Raymond, were not completed at press hour.
Buried in Riverside Cemetery, Riverside Avenue, Norwalk, CT; Section 20, Plot 81. Photo from findagrave.com.