Laurence P. Mulcrone, Illinois State Police official, dead at 64

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Laurence P. Mulcrone started his law enforcement career as a military police officer. Later, he joined the Elmhurst Police Department; was appointed a special agent with the Illinois Bureau of Investigation; and became a lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police. | Provided photo

Even when European authorities told him that 300 known soccer hooligans were on their way to Chicago for the 1994 World Cup finals — and that they had bought one-way tickets, suggesting they were expecting a free plane ride home by doing something objectionable enough to get deported — Laurence Mulcrone shook off his worries when he came home at night to his wife and children.

At the time, Mr. Mulcrone was a top state police official. Security concerns for the World Cup were a mutating headache. But, “When he would walk in the door, he used to switch into father mode from cop mode,” said his son, Joseph.

When Mr. Mulcrone’s kids were little, his homecoming made his four children feel invincible. “We would hear the keys,” his son said. “We lived in an apartment in a two-flat, and we would run down the length of the hallway, and he would catch us in hugs and throw us up in the air over his head. And when he did that, he would say, ‘Superboy!’ or ‘Supergirl!’ ’’

Next, he’d turn to his wife, Karen. “He would always just head right for my mom and give her a kiss,” his son said.

Mr. Mulcrone, 64, died on June 12 of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining caused by exposure to asbestos. His doctor thinks the disease was linked to asbestos on a summer construction job he worked when he was 20, said his brother, Father Tom Mulcrone, a chaplain for the Chicago Fire Department.

He started his law enforcement career as a military police officer at the U.S. Army base in Fort Bragg, N.C. Later, he joined the Elmhurst Police Department. In 1976, he was appointed a special agent with the Illinois Bureau of Investigation, where he worked undercover narcotics.

At one point, he jumped into a drug dealer’s car. The man pulled a gun and said, “How do I know you’re not ‘The Man?’ ’’ Joseph Mulcrone said. His father responded, “If I was ‘The Man,’ would I be crazy enough to sit in this car with you?”

He also helped form and lead Metropolitan Enforcement Group units — linking local and federal agencies — to combat illegal drugs and other offenses in DuPage and Lake County.

Mr. Mulcrone became a lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police, where he oversaw State Police operations in Northern Illinois, managing more than 1,000 staffers, relatives said. He also worked as laboratory director of the Forensic Science Center in Chicago.

After retiring from the state police, he joined the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. Eventually, he became chief of staff. When he retired again, he and a partner, Dan McDevitt, opened their own agency, REM Management Services. McDevitt called Mr. Mulcrone “the finest police officer I ever encountered in my 36-year [law enforcement] career.”

Mr. Mulcrone grew up in a family of eight in the Austin neighborhood, where his family attended Resurrection Church near Laramie and Jackson. Young “Laury,” as his siblings called him, grew up streetwise. “If a fight was going to break out, you wanted him on your side,” his brother said.

“He was destined to be in law enforcement,” Tom Mulcrone said. “He had that sixth sense. He just knew when things were going to happen. . . . He knew the streets, but he knew people’s hearts and he knew people’s souls. He could read people in an incredible way.”

At Resurrection, he took Irish step-dancing lessons from the late Pat Roche, a superb dancer from County Clare who is credited with helping to preserve the tradition in America. He had a grace that made him a force at a feis, an Irish dance competition. He won about 100 medals, his brother said.

Through dancing, he and one of Roche’s sons earned extra money. “The two of them had a cottage industry,” Tom Mulcrone said. “They made a fortune doing the Irish step-dancing at these fish-and-chips restaurants. They were booked for the better part of a year.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce at DePaul University, where he met Karen Krupa of Berwyn. They married in 1972. They raised their family in Berwyn before moving to Westchester.

His daughter, Julie Sochacki, recalls that he always attended his kids’ special events, even while working a side job teaching criminology at Morton College. “He came to every one of our games. He was our basketball coach,” she said. “I do remember times when he was studying for an exam or something to get a promotion at work, and even if he was doing that, he would bring his stuff to our games and he’d be on the bench watching us.”

“He loved his family,” his wife said. After receiving his diagnosis, he took comfort in what he and Karen had created. “All our childrencompletedcollege, and they’re all happy and successful in their own lives,” she said. “He was saying, ‘We really have made a good legacy.’ ”

He carried his hopes into the next generation by arranging deductions from his paycheck to go to college funds for each of their 11 grandchildren.

Mr. Mulcrone earned a master’s in justice administration from Webster University and a master’s in management from DePaul.

He refused to buy Japanese or European cars. He enjoyed a pint of Guinness and attending events at Gaelic Park and the Irish American Heritage Center.

There was one beverage, however, that was a necessity. “We couldn’t talk to him before he had his coffee,” his daughter said. “One time, he gave up coffee for Lent, and my mother made him promise never to do it again.”

A terrible angler, he was convinced that every body of water he visited was bereft of life. “There must not be fish in this lake,” he’d say.

He loved Irish soda bread so much that his family plans to have some by his cremation urn.

Mr. Mulcrone also is survived by two more daughters, Coleen VanDeWalle and Kristen; 11 grandchildren; his sisters, Mary Nellis, Ellen Schuetzner and Jean Gronke; and three more brothers, Rev. Joseph, Michael and James. Visitation is scheduled Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Odilo Church, 2244 S. East Ave., Berwyn. His funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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