Growing up near the Windsor Township police station, Paul Redifer knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"I knew from the time I was 5 years old I was going to be a policeman," Redifer said.
Police officers befriended the boy, who grew up admiring the job officers did.
In his 29-year career, Redifer rose through the ranks with two York County police departments, becoming a lieutenant with the York Area Regional Police Department in 2001.
He retired Thursday.
"He was the rock-solid backbone of this department," said Chief Tom Gross. "It's kind of like losing my right arm. I guess I'll have to grow a new arm."
Chance: Redifer said he was given a shot at being a police officer by Earle Shenk, former Windsor Township Police chief, in 1982 when he was hired as a part-time officer despite lacking experience.
"That man took a chance on me when I was nothing," Redifer said of Shenk.
A year later, Redifer convinced Shenk to send him to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy after another officer in the department was injured in a crash and couldn't return to work.
"It was what I always wanted," Redifer said of the opportunity to attend the academy. "I felt bad about the circumstances."
With that, he was hired on full time.
At the time, Redifer was one of six officers in Windsor Township, the place where he was born and raised. There was only one police officer on duty during a shift. If backup was needed, Redifer said, a call went out to officers with surrounding departments.
Icon: In Windsor Township, Redifer said, Shenk served as an "icon" and a mentor to the officers, giving out advice and helping them along their career paths.
"He was more like a father to me than a boss," Redifer said.
Redifer said he carried bits of Shenk's advice with him throughout his career and doled out advice to younger officers.
After a merger of the Windsor and York township police departments in 2000, the combined York Area Regional Department boasted 32 officers. In 2001, Redifer was named the York Area Regional Police lieutenant, making him second in command of one of the county's largest police departments.
Looking back on his career, Redifer said he's proud of the work he has accomplished and grateful for the opportunity to work with outstanding fellow officers.
"If I could go back to the day I started, I wouldn't change a thing," he said.
Retirement: In his retirement, Redifer said, he'll continue to do some aspects of police work.
He's the constable for Windsor Township, and he will continue his work through the Center for Traffic Safety to set up DUI checkpoints throughout the county.
When he was a young officer with Windsor Township, he made the first DUI arrest the department had in more than a year, he said.
Back then, drunken driving wasn't a main focus for some officers. But Redifer saw it differently.
"I felt there was a need to enforce the law as it was written," he said.
Also in his retirement, Redifer will continue to be a pilot for the Lancaster County-based Maytown Sport Parachute Club.
As a pilot of a plane that parachutists jump out of, Redifer said he's required to wear a parachute. But, he added, he has no intention of leaping from the plane anytime soon.
"The only way I'm going out of that plane is if something big happens," he said.
-- Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.