West Point police officer Jason Harlow remembered as friendly, dedicated to community

Staff writer

While Jason Harlow loved his Virginia Tech ball cap, he was a man who wore many other hats as well.

More than just one of West Point’s boys in blue, Harlow was an avid outdoorsman and chef. He loved animals and dreamed of buying land where he could raise cows. He was a jokester and a storyteller.

Harlow was also a good friend, loving family man and dedicated public servant — characteristics that were lauded during a memorial service held at the W.T. Robinson Sture G. Olsson Civic Auditorium for the fallen officer Sunday afternoon.

“Jason was known to wear many hats: The official police-uniform hat, which he didn’t like, the police ball cap, which he did like, a straw cowboy hat, which didn’t really look like a cowboy hat to me, a chef’s hat, for which I was very fortunate. He loved to cook,” Susan Harlow, his wife, told the packed auditorium.

“His love for me and Brendan will continue to give me strength, as will the love all of you have for Jason and our family,” she said.

Harlow died unexpectedly at the age of 47 on March 12. He had served West Point as a member of the West Point Police Department for almost 20 years. In December, Harlow earned a promotion to the rank of master police officer.

A big personality in a small town, Harlow’s death shook West Point and the wider community. The West Point Police Department’s Facebook post about his death attracted hundreds of comments and shares. Horn’s West Point Ace Hardware and the Women of West Point group joined forces to donate and distribute blue light bulbs for porches to allow residents to pay tribute to Harlow.

And in a further display of Harlow’s impact on West Point, the auditorium pushed the limits of its 500-person occupancy during the memorial service. First responders were out in force to pay respects to one of their own. One could see Virginia State Police troopers, James City County officers and King William deputies alongside firefighters and medics.

Bill Palmer, chaplain of the town’s fire department and police department, officiated the service. A brief musical set by Brandon Slavey and Benjamin Vincent featuring the local anthem “Mill Town” was played in commemoration of Harlow. Jim Goebel, reverend at First Baptist Church of West Point, delivered a prayer as well.

In addition to his wife of 24 years and son, Harlow is survived by his parents, Linda and Thomas, and his brother Kenneth, according to an online obituary.

As handshakes and hugs were exchanged with the family during the visitation before the memorial service, photos of Harlow lit up a projection screen on stage. Harlow was often clad in a ball cap. Whether a young boy with a bushy head of black hair or a man who maintained a youthful face, he frequently wore a big grin — a clue to the kind, fun-loving person he was.

“Today is a celebration of Jason’s life, and that’s what he would want -- for us to celebrate,” his wife said, noting it was fitting the memorial service for her husband, who is of Irish descent, would fall on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Jason was known to like a beer or two. Or 12,” she said, an observation met with a warm burst of laughter. She wouldn’t be the last speaker to recount her husband’s love of a good time.

Joe Bartos, a friend of Harlow’s and West Point Volunteer Fire Department chief, shared stories of his adventures with Harlow, such as their first acquaintance in childhood when Harlow disturbed Bartos’ fishing with a pellet gun, and the time Harlow jumped into Bartos’ parents’ pool with his jeans on.

Harlow was a man of routine, West Point Police Department Chief Tim Sawyer said.

During morning patrols, Harlow would often snap photos of wildlife or the sunrise. He would buy a Hardee’s biscuit to feed to a local crow he claimed to have trained and named Sheryl Crow. He knew the people and places of West Point well, Sawyer said.

“Jason patrolled the same six square miles of this town for 20 years, pretty much with the same routine,” Sawyer said. “There’s probably not a square inch of this town, not a resident or a business he hasn’t (visited).”

Former West Point Police Department sergeant Gary Dillon reflected on Harlow’s personality and ability as an officer.

“Early on, I knew there was something really special about this guy. His laugh, his voice, all of which I can replay in my memory as I stand here now,” Dillon said. “Jason was a community police officer. He had an innate ability to connect with people."

Dillon also remarked on Harlow’s dedication to his community, and marveled at the love and support the community offered his family in return.

“West Point belonged to Jason. He accepted this town as his responsibility. For, after all, it was his home and still is. But now Jason belongs to West Point,” he said.

Near the close of the ceremony, the last call for Harlow filtered through the air.

The last call is a ceremonial radio dispatch done after an officer’s death in which a dispatcher issues several calls for the officer followed by the announcement that the officer has died.

The dispatcher called for Harlow.


She called again.


And again.


The dispatcher then announced Harlow’s death, ending her transmission: “Rest easy brother, we have the watch now.”

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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