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Tradition of Heart and Community: The Jordan Family

Officer Robert Jordan
St. Louis County Police Dept.
EOW 5/16/1981

Officer Robert Jordan served in the Divisions of Patrol, Operational Support and Criminal Investigation for the St. Louis Police Department. He was also a Police Recruiter and received numerous letters of commendation and appreciation from the department and the community he served. Husband to school teacher Emmagene Jordan, father of five from toddler to teenager, and photography hobbyist, Officer Jordan was not only an exceptional police officer, but a man who loved his family and community.

Officer Jordan and Emmagene Jordan

In February of 1981, Officer Jordan saw great potential and encouraged Sgt. (Ret.) Byron “Sarge” Watson to become a police officer. “Robert was very dedicated to law enforcement, and he was concerned about the lack of minority officers on the department. He encouraged me to put in an application.” Later that year, Sgt. (Ret.) Watson joined the academy and was hired by the St. Louis County Police Department before walking at graduation. “I will never forget how proud Robert was when I told him that I got hired. He told me that he couldn’t wait to watch me walk across the stage at my graduation ceremony.” Tragically, Officer Jordan never got to see his friend graduate.

Four months prior to the commencement, on May 16, 1981, Officer Jordan was robbed at gunpoint while shopping with one of his children.  The suspect demanded Officer Jordan’s wallet, and upon opening the wallet saw Officer Jordan’s police badge. The suspect shot Officer Jordan three times in the chest, killing him. Sgt. (Ret.) Watson remembers when he heard the news of Officer Jordan’s death, “I was totally devasted. I dedicated my academy training to him, and on the days when I wanted to give up, I would think about how disappointed Robert would have been.  I graduated in September, and as I walked across the stage, I could feel Robert’s presence.”

Sgt. (Ret.) Watson and Emmagene Jordan

After three decades in law enforcement, Sgt. (Ret) Watson is now the chaplain for the St. Louis County Police Department. In 1997 he became a BackStoppers Family Friend volunteer, and in 2017 he became a Family Friend to Officer Jordan’s widow, Emmagene. For over 25 years, Sgt. (Ret.) Watson was Emmagene’ s escort for the Annual Prayer Breakfast held in Clayton. This past August Emmagene Jordan passed away at the age of 80. Sgt. (Ret.) Watson reflects on the years he spent with both Officer Robert Jordan and Emmagene Jordan, “I owe my career to the Jordan family. They have always been my inspiration, and I really miss them.”

 Officer Jordan’s daughter, Renate Kirksey, was two years old at the time he was killed. Renate is now a second-grade teacher for Parkwood Elementary, and she shares what inspired her to teach, “My family has had many educators, including my late mother. Within education are the principles of service and family. I was ultimately inspired by my mother to enter the field of education.”

The integrity and dedication to helping others that Renate’s parents instilled in her has been applied to her teaching career. She shares how she honors her parents’ teachings, “I honor and remember my parents by continuing the beautiful values and traditions they taught and modeled for us. Service and family were among the very important foundations established by both of my parents.”

After hearing the news of Renate’s mother passing away, the Parkwood Elementary Principal, Melissa Yount-Ott offered to hold casual dress days among the faculty with proceeds benefiting BackStoppers in honor of Officer Robert Jordan and Emmagene Jordan. The fundraiser raised over $300 for BackStoppers! 

The Jordan family made a difference in their community and changed lives for the better. We are honored to have served and assisted the Jordan family. We will never forget the sacrifice Officer Robert Jordan made and we will continue to remember him.

“The BackStoppers is an organization that has helped my family tremendously since the untimely and unexpected tragic loss of my father.  The BackStoppers support helped ease the weight with financial assistance for my mother and her five children.  Words cannot express the gratitude my family has for the effort of the BackStoppers for not only my family, but all the families served. We look forward to helping support the organization that supports so many families of our local service heroes that will never be forgotten.” – Renate Kirksey

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A Lineage of Public Service

Officer James Reifschneider
St. Louis County Police Dept.
EOW 4/30/1977

On April 30, 1977, St. Louis County Police Officer James Reifschneider was conducting a traffic stop when he was struck by a motorist and killed, leaving behind his wife, Sue Reifschneider, and their three children.  The BackStoppers immediately began assisting the Reifschneider family.  Now, more than 40 years later, the family’s heritage of honor is more than apparent.  Officer Reifschneider’s son, Lt. Mike Reifschneider, is a BackStoppers Family Friend volunteer and serves with the St. Louis County Police Department as his father did.  Lt. Reifschneider’s daughter, Kara Reifschneider George, is a dispatcher for the department and his son, Jake Reifschneider, is a paramedic pursuing a career in firefighting.

Lt. Reifschneider recalls what brought him to the same career path as his father, “After my father’s death, I did not immediately seek to become a police officer.  I did not want to put my mother and family through another traumatic event if something similar were to happen to me.  I went to Ranken Technical College and, after graduation, sought a job in the construction field.  Like many children of fallen officers, at first, we choose a different career path, but life’s calling directs us back to where we are supposed to be.  This was the case for me 35 years ago”.

Lt. Mike Reifschneider

A 35-year veteran of law enforcement, Lt. Reifschneider continues his father’s legacy by remembering him every day on duty.  “I pass by his photo on the wall which is displayed with photos of other St. Louis County officers that were killed in the line of duty. I remember a time when there were fewer photos hanging on the wall. I have always tried to conduct myself in a way that would not tarnish his name. I believe I have honored him by raising his grandchildren in a way that they, too, decided on their own to become part of the first responder community”.

Lt. Reifschneider reflects on growing up in a first responder family and learning more about his father since entering the field, “My father was killed in the line of duty when I was fourteen. With shift rotations and working secondary, we did not get to see him as often as kids I knew whose fathers were not police officers. The majority of what I know about my father came from stories his friends told me about him once I became a police officer. Later in my career, I was also given copies of his personnel file. I found most of the things mentioned in his rating sheets by his supervisors, whom I later met, were like the things written in mine. Throughout the years I have been told by his friends how much I am like him and remind them of how he conducted himself”.

Lt. Reifschneider notably inherited his father’s traits and work ethic, and instilled the same in his son, Paramedic Jake Reifschneider. “I have tried to pass the same traits along to my son; having integrity, doing what is right even when no one is watching, having a good work ethic, and having compassion for others while being able to stand firm through adversity”.

Paramedic Jake Reifschneider

Paramedic Reifschneider has ambitiously taken on the family legacy by pursuing a career as a first responder. After graduating high school, Paramedic Reifschneider enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve where he served as a medic. Upon completion of his training, he returned home to pursue a paramedic/firefighting career. After completing a paramedic program at Jefferson College in 2017, he graduated from the St. Louis County Fire Academy earlier this year. His nonstop work ethic has led him to serving full time at Union Ambulance District and part time with both the New Haven and Osage Ambulance Districts. As busy as this keeps him, he is still actively working towards becoming a firefighter/paramedic in St. Louis County.

Continuing the family’s heritage of honor was not the only motivator for Paramedic Reifschneider to become a first responder. Paramedic Reifschneider shares, “I decided to become a first responder after my brother, Jonah, passed away from a rare genetic disease. I knew that I wanted to help others just like his hospice nurses helped my family”. Lt. Reifschneider speaks with pride about his son’s choice, “I could not be happier. In todays’ environment, I am glad Jake decided to be a paramedic instead of a police officer. Since he was a child, he had an interest in medicine. With his younger brother having a terminal illness, he assisted his mother and I with his brother’s care daily. He had abilities and compassion beyond his years”.

Both Lt. Reifschneider and Paramedic Reifschneider have had to press on through unimaginable tragedies, but each remains determined to honor his family. Paramedic Reifschneider says, “My grandfather and father have left big shoes for me to fill, but I try to serve others with integrity and honor. I enjoy having the privilege of serving citizens”.  The Reifschneider’s lineage of public service is an inspiration, and their integrity and work ethic a benefit to our community.  In this way, Officer James Reifschneider’s service that began in 1967 continues today, and we are eternally grateful for the ultimate sacrifice he made and the legacy he left behind.

“The BackStoppers is committed to our first responders. They were there on the morning of Saturday, April 30, 1977, and have been assisting my mother as needed for the last 41 years”.

– Lt. Mike Reifschneider

“I would like everyone to know that BackStoppers supports the fallen first responders’ families from day one, and they never stop supporting them.  I have seen an example of their support with my grandma as BackStoppers has been with her.  Knowing that BackStoppers will be there for my family should something happen to me in the line of duty makes it easier to run towards the dangers we face as first responders every day.”  

Paramedic Jake Reifschneider

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