Flying with the Angels

5175874_1057451358The first was Len, born on February 15, 1927, loving son of Frank and Bronislawa “Bertha”. A native of Chicago, he graduated from Lane Technical High School.  He was a World War II veteran.and drove a CTA bus for a time.  He became a Chicago Police officer on September 21, 1953. In 1954, he was the first patrolman in the United States to use the now famous radar gun and the first to write a speeding ticket having used a radar device.

best irvinThe second was Irv, born on May 5, 1919,  loving son of Irwin and Magdalena, He like Len, was also a native of Chicago,  a graduate of Lane Technical and a World War II veteran before joining the Chicago Police Department in 1948.

.Unless you are a Chicago-born  senior citizen like myself,  you may not have heard or remember  them, but please continue reading. Discover what they really did for Chicago, and celebrate their lives. See why I decided to honor them together in this post. 5175874_118936078345Leonard Frank Baldy was best known as “Flying Officer Leonard Baldy” Chicago’s first helicopter traffic reporter. He provided the first traffic report over WGN radio in November 1958. He gave these reports four times a day, six days a week.

He was airborne over the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire in December 1958 and provided assistance over the radio to fire and ambulance vehicles trying to reach the fire through Chicago’s congested streets. Both Baldy and WGN radio received public service awards from the National Transportation Safety Board for his work.

mapOfficer Baldy died in a fiery crash  on May 2 1960 when one of the two main rotor blades failed, and the helicopter came down near the intersection of Milwaukee, Union, and Hubbard on an embankment of the Chicago and Northwestern (now Metra) tracks, just west of the Milwaukee Avenue overpass. . His pilot, H. G. Ferry age 40, also perished.

Officer Baldy  was only 33 years old. He left behind his wife Marguerite, two sons and a daughter. .His funeral mass was said at St. Juliana’s Church, 7142 Osceola.. He is buried in All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines Illinois.5175874_116448878303

Forty-six years after his death, the citizens of Chicago remembered him with the honor of renaming a street “Leonard Baldy Way”.. .He has a place on the WGN Radio Walk of Fame. He was elected to the National Police Hall of Fame. ” In 2006, his son, Tim Baldy, published a biography entitled Chicago’s Finest.aerial1







Soon after Len died, Irwin (Irv) Francis Hayden took over the traffic microphone and reported rush hour traffic for WGN Radio for the next 11 years.. Once the city used routes like Sheridan Road and Lake Shore Drive to move traffic, but the newly emerging network of expressways presented new traffic patterns and problems. Irv Hayden took aerial pictures when the original McCormick Place burned.  He coined the “spaghetti bowl” description of the tangle of merging ramps between the Kennedy, the Dan Ryan and the Eisenhower (Congress) expressways. “Flying Officer Hayden” Introduced the term “gapers’ block” for folks who slowed to a crawl to look at an accident, and coined “Hubbard’s Cave,” for the underpass on the Kennedy Expressway at Hubbard Street.

irv mapDuring the afternoon rush hour on Aug. 10, 1971 Irv was flying in windy and rainy conditions out west near the Eisenhower Expressway. His Bell Ranger helicopter crashed and exploded into three power lines falling into an empty field used for Little League baseball games. Hayden and pilot David Demarest, 29, both died inside the burning chopper.

Irv Hayden flew over 11,000 hours in his career. In 1962. he was the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Award, He worked with local VA hospitals and had been named the American Veteran of Illinois in 1956-57.

Irv had lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood and left behind his wife Margaret “Peggy”, a son and a daughter. Mass was said at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church, 1420 Granville. He is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove. Two months later, his widow presented his burial flag to Lane Tech High School.

Officer Baldy, Officer Hayden, may you both always fly high with the angels. Thank you for your service.

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