REQUIESCAT IN PACE: He was as wise as he was smart, a kind and selfless public servant who cared deeply for both his community and the officers he led. Paterson Police Capt. John Phelan died early Sunday at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center following medical complications.
He was only 58.
A Silk City native and Clifton resident, Phelan came from a family of responders. His father, Jack, retired as a Paterson police lieutenant. His wife of 15 years, Lourdes (Mercado) Phelan, is a city deputy police chief (inset photo above).
Phelan joined the department in 1983 and hit the streets on patrol the following year.
“We grew up together and our fathers served together on the department," said city Police Capt. Patrick Murray. "This is the only job we ever thought of doing."
Phelan moved up the ranks -- working narcotics and as a detective along the way -- before becoming a patrol captain. He was among the Ground Zero responders on 9/11 and never hesitated to go wherever he was needed.
Many called Phelan the type of supervisor they wanted to work for, a giant gentle giant with a wit that was as quick as his insight was deep.
Phelan was "known for his vast knowledge and equal desire to share that with everyone throughout the department regardless of rank," city Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said.
He had "an openness and ability to help and communicate with people, one he would routinely utilize to help enhance public safety," the director said.
Phelan never took himself too seriously, either -- a trait that many said made learning from his easy.
The department's longest-serving active member at the time of his death, Phelan "left an indelible mark that will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of the department and community," Speziale said.
Murray agreed. "John touched more people than any of us will ever know," he said.
A department funeral, with honors, was being arranged.
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