Middletown Township Police Officer Chris Jones was working overtime when his lifetime of public service abruptly ended yesterday in a traffic accident on Route 1 in Bucks County.

As usual, Jones had volunteered for the extra duty.

"He wanted to help people and be of service to people," said the Rev. William Dooner, Jones' pastor at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel. "He saw being a police officer as really helping the community."

At 37, Jones was nearing a promotion to detective. He had been on the force since 1998, after two years as a Bucks County corrections officer and seven years as a naval officer before that.

He was known as a thorough officer, one who went the extra mile when needed. Even the grind of patrol work had not worn him down; the 54-officer force also used him among a handful of field-training officers to aid rookies.

Also, he and his wife, Suzanne, had three school-age children to raise, so overtime duty to help slow down a dangerous stretch of highway was a welcome chance to boost the household budget.

The department regularly dangled the opportunity and Jones frequently accepted, trying to help stanch an endless stream of reckless drivers.

"No matter how much we do up there, the average speed is probably 75 m.p.h.," said Officer Steve Forman, president of the Middletown police officers' union and a longtime colleague.

Disaster, Forman said, sometimes struck on the road, with an average of one police car a year being battered out of service on the highway. Thorough officers, such as Jones, knew to herd pulled-over motorists to the relatively safer places on the irregular shoulders to allow a little more space. Even those precautions, however, sometimes fail.

"Everything he was doing was a textbook traffic stop," Forman said, "where it was stopped, how it was stopped."

The news that a wreck killed Jones during a traffic stop yesterday shook his community, where colleagues and friends remembered him as a genial and devoted officer.

At a news conference, his chief, Frank McKenna, read a letter from a person whose complaint Jones had investigated. The letter called Jones "industrious to the point of being tenacious" in pursuing the case, a description echoed by others who had seen him work.

"Chris was a role model for other people," said Bucks Corrections Lt. John Mannarino, who trained with Jones before working alongside him.

District Judge Daniel Baranoski, a former Middletown police officer, said Jones had been "one of the true good guys" in law enforcement, known for consistency and a winning sense of humor.

"Everybody's just devastated," Baranoski said.

Jones regularly invited other officers to share a favorite pastime: camping in Chester County with his children.

Neighbor Rosemary Hauser said Jones doted on his children, helping build a treehouse and gently instilling in them a sense of duty. Hauser, 70, lives alone, and Jones' children shoveled her snow and raked her leaves. When anlarge tree limb fell in Hauser's back yard recently, Jones hauled it away.

"They've always watched out for me," Hauser said.

She had been contemplating asking Jones for a ride to catch an early train this morning before she heard the news. It was the kind of favor Jones often did without a second thought, she said.