When Katherine Anderson read a recent Behind the Badge story about how the first female Orange County Sheriff’s deputy was alive and well and living in a convalescent home in Corona, she got excited.
“The story said she was taking visitors,” says Anderson, the first female motorcycle officer with the Garden Grove Police Department. “I knew I had to get over there. This is living history.”
On Saturday morning, Sept. 10, she arrived at Alice Chandler’s “home” with muffins and juice and hugs — and eight other female fans from various law enforcement agencies.
“The Lord is giving me a family I never had,” Chandler, who is 88 and never married or had kids of her own, told her visitors, triggering tears from Anderson.
Chandler was deputized back in 1949. She had just turned 21 when she was invited to interview with then-Sheriff James Musick because of her reputation as a fine horsewoman. After an hour-long conversation, Musick handed her a badge and told her mother to go buy her a Smith and Wesson handgun.
Chandler’s job: To keep trespassers away from Peter’s Lake and Peter’s Canyon, a popular duck hunting and fishing spot.
“Well, you have a lot more courage today,” Chandler told her visitors. “Back then it wasn’t that hard. The guys took me out by the lake to learn how to shoot.”
“Because of the life choices you made, it opened the door for us,” she told Chandler.
Her fellow officers told her that she was now part of their sisterhood.
“We take care of each other,” Anderson said. “You’re gonna have a lot of visitors on a lot of different days.”
Chandler said she is thrilled, but not surprised.
“We have that bond: Caring about other people,” she said. “That’s what law enforcement is. To be a law enforcement officer and go into the danger, they have to have a big heart.”
Before leaving, the visitors made a scrap book for Chandler, taping in their photos and writing their names beside them so she can keep track of her visitors.
So far the book shows Garden Grove patrol officer Vanessa Brodeur and Det. Lea Kovacs, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies Olivia Coco and Suzy Seamon and Jenny Anckaer, Santa Ana’s first female motorcycle officer Irene Gomez, Brea patrol officer Shannon Buckels and Los Alamitos Det. Justine Kim.
Chandler, whose only medical problem is a bad back, regaled the women with stories from days gone by: Like when her 5-year-old baby brother was accidentally shot dead at her feet by their teen brother; her crazy horse Prayer Baby; and how she castrated a lot of animals when she worked on the ranch and thinks there should be a law to castrate child molesters, of whom she was once a victim.
“There’d be a lot of geldings around,” Chandler quipped.
Her visitors are planning to take her on a field trip to the Sheriff’s Museum where Chandler’s gun and badge are on display.
“See all the family I’ve got,” Chandler said as Anderson walked her back to her room for a nap after all the excitement. “What a neat thing to go to sleep with.”