Joseph Repkoe never set out to be a police officer. But, thanks to an unsuccessful attempt to join the military during the Vietnam War, Repkoe discovered a job that was "what I expected and more."
Three years after the death of his father and soon after he became bored working at Prudential Insurance in a "windowless" room, Repkoe, then 22, began what would become a 40-year career at the Horsham Township Police Department
"I was learning to be a man," Repkoe said, crediting then-Chief Jack Donovan for helping to mold him into a police officer. "He became a surrogate father to me."
By 1975, Repkoe was promoted to sergeant and in 1989 he earned a promotion to lieutenant.
"When I was on the street as an officer and a sergeant I was proud of the fact that I often led the department in arrests, I often led the department in citations," Repkoe said, adding that in retrospect those were not necessarily career milestones because, "I was hurting somebody … or I was hurting their extended family."
Instead, Repkoe, who helped establish the Horsham ChATs community policing program, as well as the anti-drug program D.A.R.E. aimed at preventing drug use among school-aged kids, said he took pride in his "daily dealings with people."
And, through his police career spanning four decades, Repkoe has worked hard to be "in the sun," as opposed to being the "number two" guy "in the shadows."
In 1995, when the police chief position was available, Repkoe and Robert Ruxton, who were both sergeants at the time, competed for the coveted post.
"It was a good situation," Repkoe told Patch. "We were both friends."
In the end, Ruxton, who joined the force six months after Repkoe's first day on the job in 1972 received the promotion to Horsham's top cop.
"It was a mental change for me," Repkoe said. "Because my whole life I was trying to be number one."
As Repkoe looks ahead to his final two weeks as a police officer following his Dec. 28 retirement, both he and Ruxton shared during Wednesday night's Horsham Township Council meeting how the two comrades in arms worked for the past 17 years to "run the show."
"We rose through the ranks together," Ruxton said, recalling coffee breaks at 3 a.m. when he and Repkoe talked about the department's future under their leadership. "Someday we were going to be together and we were going to run the show. You know what? It happened."
Horsham Police Lt. Jon Clark, who joined the police department on Aug. 16, 1974, worked his entire police career to date with Repkoe and learned much about being a law enforcement officer from Repkoe's example.
"He taught me from the first day of being a police officer to always treat people fairly, that you very well may forget ever meeting that person, but they most likely will always remember how you treated them," Clark said. "He was a leader and you wanted to follow him."
As difficult as it is for Repkoe, 62, a father of four daughters and grandfather of two grandsons, to walk away from the community he loves and has served for more than half of his life, he told Patch simply, "it's time."
"It was my first job in law enforcement. It was what I expected and more," Repkoe said. "I absolutely loved the job."
But once schedules are behind him, Repkoe said he's looking forward to spending more time with his family and traveling.
"I actually want to see what retirement’s about," Repkoe said.
In his place, Lt. William Daly, a U.S. Air Force veteran who started his career with the Horsham Police in 1987, will serve as deputy chief beginning on Jan. 1. Daly was sworn into his new role during Wednesday night's meeting. Repkoe said the department is doing away with the captain rank and will instead use the title of deputy chief - which is essentially the same job - in its place.
Not surprisingly, Repkoe, who has called Horsham home for about 50 years and knows much of the community, knew Daly prior to his police work.
"Bill Daly was my paperboy. He was a good paperboy," Repkoe told Patch. "He’s an even better police officer."
Had his lottery number been called for military enlistment back in 1969 or 1970, Repkoe may have never discovered the man he would become, or, years later, the police officer that Daly, his neighbor and former newspaper delivery boy, would become.
With a new year ushering in a new second-in-command of the Horsham Township Police Department, Township Manager Bill Walker said of Daly, "We’re going to build upon that strong foundation" laid under Repkoe's leadership.