Middleburg police officer David Shaffer was one of more than 25 first-responders who were mentored by the late borough police Chief Tony Jordan and considered him a friend.
On Tuesday, one day before Jordan, 60, died due to complications from COVID-19, Shaffer and about two dozen other officers drove to Lewistown Hospital in Mifflin County so they could say goodbye to their mentor.
They parked their vehicles in an area of the lot closest to Jordan's room and, with the help of hospital personnel who set up a Facetime opportunity, each officer got to say something directly to the chief, who was unable to respond.
"I think he recognized us," said Shaffer.
Tributes to Jordan, who served in Middleburg's three-officer police department since 1980 and as chief since 1992, flooded social media after his passing.
Middleburg police officer Chad Thomas said it's evidence of the compassion Jordan showed to everyone and the help he offered to youth in the community.
"He was always so supportive. He was a mentor to a lot of people, not just me," Thomas said.
Among those who worked in the auxiliary police department under Jordan's supervision early in their careers were Mifflinburg police officer Mark Bailey, who now serves as acting police chief in Middleburg; Snyder County EMA Director Derick Shambach and Buffalo Valley Regional Police officer Mark Kuhns.
"Tony was great at nurturing youth," said Kuhns, who was encouraged to enroll in the police academy by Jordan, who then hired him in 1992. "I worked with Tony for 12 1/2 years. I am where I am today because of him."
Jordan was a dedicated officer of the law but "he wasn't there to arrest people. He wanted to elevate them," said Shambach.
"He took so many of us under his wing," said Mifflinburg police officer Matt Wenrich.
While he had no children of his own, Jordan was considered a father figure by many.
Shaffer recalled walking into the police station as a college student and inquiring about internship opportunities. Told there were none, he was leaving the building when Jordan appeared and called him into his office.
They talked and Shaffer was invited into the auxiliary program where he spent two years before going into the police academy. He too was hired by Jordan after graduating and has been working at his side ever since for nearly 11 years.
"He was always willing to give people a chance," Shaffer said.
Thomas was one of those people. At the age of 14, he was hired to work at Jordan's K-9 Academy in Middleburg and in 1998 he joined the police force led by Jordan.
"Tony was more than a boss. He was a friend," he said.
Matthew Lauver was a self-described "mischievous teen" in Middleburg when he encountered the chief.
"He was always professional and talked to you like a person. He treated everyone with respect," he said.
The interactions Lauver had with Jordan "cemented" the Northumberland Borough police officer's decision to pursue a career in law enforcement. "I wanted to be like him," Lauver said.
Most of the officers Jordan tutored or hired remained in contact with him until the end of his life and many invited him to their weddings. He was Shaffer's best man when he married three years ago.
"I would count him as my best friend," said Shaffer, who also works as a dog trainer at Jordan's canine academy. "We worked the same eight-hour shift and then I'd go train dogs at his place. He fed me supper every night."
Many spoke about Jordan's encouragement and unwavering willingness to offer support and training.
While serving an internship with a local police department in the early 2000s, Mifflinburg police officer Tracy Fetterman met Jordan at a DUI checkpoint and was offered a job when he graduated from the police academy.
"He knew he was training people who were going to leave" the Middleburg department, Fetterman said.
Shaffer cringes when he recalls working his first shift alone.
"I called Tony so many times that night," he said. "I stopped a drunk guy and he wouldn't get out of the car. It was 3 a.m. when I called Tony. That poor man, he never sounded like he was asleep."
Snyder County Sheriff Deputy Ross Mitchell started his law enforcement career in 2003 as a part-time officer in Middleburg under Jordan's tutelage.
"He was a mentor, a teacher and a friend," Mitchell said. "He was stern and to the point, but forgiving. He touched a lot of lives."
Many of those lives Jordan impacted were troubled youth.
Union County Sheriff Ernie Ritter worked with Jordan in the 1990s and described him as a caring officer who "took a lot of young kids who were on the fence about if they wanted to live a lawful life or a criminal life and put them on the right path.
"He was one of the few who could get someone to confess, arrest them and they would end up thanking him," said Ritter. "I was just speaking to someone today who spent time in prison who said Tony probably saved his life."
"I don't think the community has any idea of what they lost," said Fetterman, echoing a sentiment expressed by many who knew Jordan.
Former police officer Jason Roth got his first job from Jordan in 2002 and like several others, recalled him as a supportive teacher and frequent prankster.
"He always had a joke and sometimes you didn't know if he was serious," Roth said.
The public didn't often see this side from the low-key officer, who shied away from publicity.
When Jordan learned Shaffer had found out that he had been paying the lunches of two less fortunate Middleburg residents for several years he made the younger man promise to never tell anyone.
"We're going to get chewed out" Thomas joked of what he expects would be Jordan's reaction to the public display held on Wednesday night as dozens of police officers and first-responders held a 35-vehicle procession carrying the chief's body from the hospital to Hummel's Funeral Home in Middleburg.
"He wouldn't have wanted that. He would have wanted it to be discreet," Thomas said with a laugh. "For him, it was all about police work. He was there to do a job and he did it well."