WHY WOULD anyone want to be a prison guard?

The easy answer might be that it's a dirty job but somebody has to do it. But it's unlikely that would have been John Polisi's answer.

The truth was that he was always a little vague about what prompted him to spend seven years as a correctional officer at Graterford Prison, with no apparent intention of ever doing anything else.

"He always wanted to be in law enforcement, but he didn't want to be a cop," said his brother, Michael. "Being in corrections I think was something he wanted to try. It was a challenge."

John Polisi, called Jack by family and friends, died in his sleep Dec. 17. He was 42 and lived in Spring City, Chester County.

Jack had been in excellent health, his family said. He worked out regularly and watched his diet, but recently he planned to enter treatment for sleep apnea. Last summer he was treated for an acid-reflux disorder.

It was obvious that Jack got a lot of satisfaction working as a corrections officer in one of the state's toughest prisons. He didn't talk much about the job, other than to say that many of his charges were lifers.

A few years ago, Jack received a certificate of appreciation from Graterford for resuscitating a prisoner and saving his life.

Jack was born in Philadelphia to Anthony and Betty Polisi. He graduated from Archbishop Ryan High School in 1991.

"We lost the youngest of our family way too soon, but we will forever cherish our memories of growing up together in a big family," the family wrote in a tribute.

"Get-togethers will never be the same without his great sense of humor, particularly when he performed spot-on impressions of our father's corny, silly sayings. Our family, especially our parents, were extremely proud of his service and dedication as a corrections officer at Graterford Prison.

"He loved his family, especially his daughter, Bella, who held a very special place in his heart. We loved him very much and we will miss him dearly."

Besides his brother and daughter, Isabella, he is survived by four sisters, Donna Cleary, Bernadette Clapp, Betty Polisi and Jean Miluzzo, and two other brothers, Anthony Polisi Jr. and Joseph.

Services: Funeral Mass 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Anselm Church, 12670 Dunks Ferry Rd. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery.

215-854-5573