Detective John Druding, my coworker and friend, has lost his years-long battle with colon cancer. John passed away on his birthday. He was only 46 years old.
People say this all the time when someone passes away, but in this case it’s true: John was a very good man. After a stint in the army, he joined the SEPTA Transit Police, and eventually moved to the Philadelphia Police Department. He was promoted to detective and after a stint in Southwest Philly, he came to our division. John spent a few years in my squad before moving to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) where he handled shootings.
Suffice to say, he was always busy.
He was also always quirky. John wore the same outfit to work every day. Literally every day. White shirt, tan khakis, red tie. He used to tell us it was easier than picking out clothes to wear every day. When John first got his cancer results, the division held John Druding Day, where everyone wore the Druding Uniform that day. John’s son wore the Druding Uniform at last night’s viewing.
John was also usually the smartest man in the room. John knew the directives, the phone numbers of obscure units, and obscure charges no one would have known were on the books.
John was funny, but it was mostly straight-faced humor. Occasionally when he would answer the phone, you could tell how the conversation was going. When he answered a question then immediately reply, “Sorry, no follow up questions” and hang up, you know the call was not going swimmingly. John became a division legend when he poked fun at a coworker by imitating him in the Muppets’ Swedish Chef voice. We still have the audio, and it’s still hilarious.
When John got sick, he let everyone in the division know, but that was the end of it. He never talked about the colon cancer, rarely talked about his chemotherapy, and certainly never felt sorry for himself. John just kept coming to work, every day, and doing the job. He did, however, joke about his colostomy bag – often to me. On bad days, we occasionally suggested he go home early, and he patently refused. John was determined to continue working, and refused to be cowed by the cancer.
While it’s difficult to accept John’s passing, it’s obviously much more difficult for his family. John’s wife is one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet, and they have a young daughter and son. At the viewing, they were both completely composed and mature beyond their years. John and Michelle raised them right. I cannot fathom how difficult this is for them. Even when you know it’s coming, you are never fully prepared.
John will be interred in Washington Crossing National Cemetery.
2020 has been the worst year of my life. In the span of six months, I lost my mother, my sergeant, and now John. I know they are all in a better place, but I do not understand the rationale of taking John home to God at the age of 46.
Rest in peace, John. We will all miss you terribly.