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Queens Chronicle

The Queens cop who inspired a legendary movie

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2019 10:30 am

Walter Egan, a plumber, married Agnes Ryan in 1927 in New York City. In 1929 they bought a house at 83-45 63 Ave. in Rego Park. On Jan. 3, 1930 she gave birth to a boy, Edward. However, the marriage soon soured. Agnes divorced Walter and in 1934 married Arthur Massett, an FDNY official who lived and breathed his job. At the time of his retirement, he was department chief.

Young Eddie moved into a Sunnyside apartment with his mom and stepfather. Agnes gave birth later to two daughters. Then suddenly on Dec. 5, 1942 Agnes died at age 37. Eddie, then 12, went to live with his grandmother. At 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps on Jan. 16, 1947. At age 19, stationed at Camp LeJeune, NC, he married Dolores Popkivich on July 11, 1949.

Egan, known as “Popeye” because of his hardened face, became an NYPD patrolman in 1955. With thousands of arrests made, he became detective first grade. A 112-pound heroin bust he made in 1961 got Hollywood’s attention, inspiring the 1971 movie “The French Connection,” which he took a leave of absence to help make. The character Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was based on him.

The NYPD fired Egan on trumped-up charges but he got a full retirement and pension after litigation.

He continued to take acting roles. Sadly, he died of colon cancer on Nov. 4, 1995. The 63rd Avenue home is now owned by a Frank Loncar.

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