By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – For the sixth time in the past year-and-a-half, on Feb. 5 Philadelphia’s Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul was packed with rank upon rank of blue-clad law officers and other mourners for the funeral of a police officer who died in the line of duty.
In this case it was Officer Christopher Jones, a 10-year veteran of the Middletown Police in Bucks County. Jones, who was posthumously raised to the rank of detective, died Jan. 29 at St. Mary Hospital just hours after he was struck by a vehicle on Route 1 while walking back to his vehicle after a routine traffic stop.
Jones, 37, a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and their children, Christopher, 16; Julianne, 13; and Brendan, 12.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, who was the celebrant and homilist of the Mass, spoke of “the splendid legacy of Officer Jones as an upright Christian, a member of the Catholic Church, a devoted husband, a loving father, a dedicated servant to the community as an officer of the Middletown Township Police Department.”
Quoting from Father William Dooner, pastor of Our Lady of Grace and concelebrant of the Mass, the Cardinal said, “the fulfillment of Christopher Jones’ many faceted role is indeed summarized as the goodness of ‘a very, very good man’ – the goodness that Officer Jones received as a blessing from God and developed and nurtured throughout his life.”
After Mass, the long line of police vehicles escorted the remains of Officer Jones and his family and friends to Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem, where he was interred.
The afternoon and evening before an estimated 2,000 people braved the bitter cold to line up for the fallen officer’s viewing. Previously his remains had been driven through Middletown in a horse-drawn hearse.
“The turn-out wasn’t just because he was a policeman, he was respected as a person,” said Father Dooner. “He was innately good and it flowed out of him naturally. He was a very pleasant man who brightened everybody’s day with a smile.”
Jones, whose wife and children are Catholic, became Catholic himself several years ago, Father Dooner said. “He lived out his call to serve Jesus Christ as a police officer.”
Chris Conaway, an administrative assistant at Our Lady of Grace and a neighbor to the Jones family, remembers his squad car would be outside the school, and she would wave. “I would kid him about how he looked about 12 years old,” she recalls. Conaway also taught CCD to Julianne and remembers how she would sometimes worry about her father’s safety.
When Conaway, whose own husband died Jan. 5, heard the news of the tragic accident, she went to the Jones house to console Suzanne. “She wound up consoling me,” she said. “They are just wonderful people.”
Immediately after her husband’s death, Suzanne Jones released his organs for donation. Donors were found for both of his kidneys; one was successfully implanted into a former U.S. Navy buddy.
The Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police has established a memorial trust fund in his memory. Donations may be sent to the Philadelphia Police and Fire Credit Union, 852 E. Street Road, Warminster, PA 18974.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.