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John Reposa Jr. a 19-year veteran of the Providence Police Department, lost his life a year ago. The Jamestown native, known for his compassionate side, was widely admired among his colleagues, and his death sent family, friends, and fellow officers reeling. He was just 43. Hundreds attended the service to commemorate his life. “He was a great police officer,” they’d say to a man. “When the going got tough, he was always there to rely on.”
They also called him “All City John,” largely because, contrary to policy, he often crossed neighborhood lines to do his police work. “He would always cross the city and grab the bad guys,” said officer Ned Kemble.
Kemble was especially touched by Reposa’s life and death. So touched in fact, that, as an aspiring songwriter, he crafted his feelings for Reposa into a song. It’s called, appropriately, “All City John.”
“My experience with John was not personal,” he admits. “But the thing with John was whenever we met he’d greet me, and everyone else for that matter, with a handshake and a smile.”
It was that inimitable spirit that drove Kemble to write the song. “It was easy to take him into your heart,” he says. “During the process, I felt like it brought me closer to his spirit. It was a very powerful feeling.”
The song started out as a simple acoustic track, but then gained a life of its own. Those that heard it were moved by it, and they encouraged Ned to flesh it out, give it a real push. He petitioned his brother Mark T. Kemble’s help with the lyrics and gave it professional production at Stable Sound Studio. Sandra Hadamard executive produced and additional help came from drummer Vinny Pagano, producer and musician Steve Rizzo, bagpiper Torin Ryan, and many others.
“All City John” is a wonderful tribute, with a subtle melody, tasteful lyrics, and quiet strength, led by Kemble’s sung-spoken lyrics, which evoke early Dylan. The song also adds a uniquely personal sonic perspective to Reposa’s life: bagpipes. He was a founding member and drummer of the Providence Pipes and Drums Corps, so the presence of that sound adds an emotional touch to the composition.
The songwriting development and production process, which also includes a poignant, beautifully shot video, took an unexpected toll on Kemble. “John’s death was so universal,” he says. “We’ve all had losses, and John’s passing really made me think of all the losses I have had in my life.”
The song has also touched a universal nerve for police officers across the nation. Forces lose good, active off-duty officers all the time, in addition to the officers we often hear about that sacrifice their lives on the job.
Another reason Kemble wrote the song was because he thought it necessary to give the police department, and John himself, a relatable personality. “I wanted everyone to know that police officers are human. Most people have never been in our shoes, so they don’t know how difficult it is. They see us and think ‘authority.’
A fund raiser overseen by John’s sister Lorana Reposa Demedeiros raised over $10,000 for autism, and the song hopes to raise additional charitable funds for the National Autism Association. The video, which features Lorana and launches on YouTube Wednesday August 27, is as moving as the song itself. Ned hopes it will help spread the word about the life of a great police officer, “the guy that always greeted everyone with a smile.”