WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- When many people think of St. Joseph the Worker Church in Williamsport, they can't help but think about the man who led worship services there for more than 12 years.
Fr. John Manno died Thursday morning at the age of 79.
"You have somebody who is such a pillar of society and knows so many people, that he is able to make connections," Fr. Brian Van Fossen said.
Fr. Manno did make connections. He retired in 2016 from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Montoursville, but he continued his role as chaplain for the Williamsport Bureau of Fire.
"He was adored. He cared about the men. He really cared about the men. Anytime we had tragic fire or a major fire he made it a point to come to the firehouse," Keith Lucas said.
Keith Lucas is Platoon Chief for the Williamsport Bureau of Fire. He says Fr. Manno meant the world to the firefighters, and it meant the world to him when firefighters presented him with a helmet.
"He was an inspiration, uplifted, when people were in a bad mood he would try to just talk to people," Lucas said.
Fr. Manno is so well-known that his picture was painted in downtown Williamsport.
Amanda Bair of Williamsport was one of Fr. Manno's theology students. She stopped by the mural to take a picture.
"He was a wonderful man. Everyone around the area knew him, whether it was riding Fred the Harley," Bair said.
It was Fred the Harley combined with Fr. Manno's love for our country that led him to Tank Baird and the 9/11 Memorial Motorcycle Ride.
"I dare say if it wasn't for Fr. Manno it may not have happened," Baird said.
Baird says Fr. Manno was instrumental in starting the 9/11 Memorial Ride, which draws thousands of riders.
"When I'd say Fr. Manno is involved, that is what carried the weight. Fr. Manno was the magic word," Baird said.
"One of the favorite things he always left us with was, 'every day in every way I'm better and better, higher and higher," Bair said.
Fr. John Manno will have a public viewing Monday, June 3 from noon to 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Center. His funeral is Tuesday, June 4 at 11 a.m. at the same location.