Lincoln police chief maintained strong ties to community
Lincoln is mourning the loss of its police chief.
Chief Michael Lupinacci, 51, of West Hempfield died on Thursday following a battle with neuroendocrine cancer.
Lupinacci was hired as a rookie police officer by the borough in 1999 and was chief for the past 2½ years. He's spent the last 18 months fighting the cancer that he'd been diagnosed with on his 50th birthday.
Those who knew the chief said he wasn't one for giving in to the disease, and Lupinacci himself said as recently as November that cancer treatments weren't stopping him from doing the things he wanted to do.
“I want to keep my life as normal as possible,” the chief said then as friends and family were organizing a benefit dinner for him.
On Friday, borough secretary Tammy Firda said Lupinacci's commitment to Lincoln and the police department was strong right up to the end. She said she'd lunched with the chief just a few weeks ago after he'd gone on medical leave and, “Despite everything he was going through, he was still worried about what's going on over here.”
Firda noted Lupinacci didn't live in Lincoln but he treated the community like it was home.
“The residents loved him,” Firda said. “He was a people person. He could pretty much talk to anyone. He never let situations get out of hand.”
Lupinacci also worked as Allegheny County assistant communications manager and held numerous public safety jobs including, for a time, a part-time police job in Glassport. Firda said Lupinacci, with his experience, could have worked for virtually any police department but chose Lincoln.
“He was a person who loved life and loved his job,” recalled Firda. “We're definitely going to miss him.”
Lincoln Mayor Nick Vay, a former borough police chief, said Lupinacci was a dedicated man and good leader.
“He had very good management skills,” Vay said. “He knew how to handle his men and I can only say good things about him.”
“He'll be hard to replace,” the mayor added.
Lupinacci is survived by his wife, Carolyn, children Michael II and Melissa, and five siblings — a brother and four sisters.
Carolyn Lupinacci said her husband worked until February and was taking chemotherapy treatments up to about a month ago but quit because of adverse side effects. She said his health deteriorated quickly but he still was able to get around until about a week ago. She said he died peacefully at home.
“He really had a good attitude and was trying to not get overwhelmed,” she said.
She said her husband drew much of his strength from support he got from the community, recalling a well-attended fundraising dinner at Lincoln Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co.'s social hall in December. After the dinner, she said her husband received many cards and letters wishing him well.
“He read every one of them and he tried to respond, if he could,” she said.
The chief's sister Betty Lupinacci said her brother led a life devoted to community service.
Melissa Lupinacci remembered her father as someone who brought smiles to many faces.
Viewings are scheduled for Saturday from 6-8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at William Snyder Funeral Home in Irwin. The funeral is at West Hempfield Presbyterian Church in Irwin at 10 a.m. on Monday.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.