Alice Chandler never married and never had children.
Now, at age 89, she has more “daughters” than she can count.
As the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s first female deputy, Chandler has been “adopted” by women in law enforcement from throughout the county.
Chandler received her first ever Mother’s Day call ever this year.
And on Sunday, June 25, Chandler’s “family” threw her the biggest birthday party she ever had.
Garden Grove Police Officer Katherine Anderson organized the gathering, which took place at Moreno’s Restaurant in Orange.
Anderson, who incidentally is Garden Grove PD’s first female motorcycle officer, first learned about Chandler after Behind the Badge OC profiled the retired deputy about a year ago.
Anderson took a group of female law enforcement officers to visit Chandler at a convalescent home in Corona, where she lives.
They’ve been like mother and daughter ever since.
“We are family to her,” Anderson said at the birthday gathering. “She is a living legend. She paved the way for all of us here sitting at this table.”
Anderson choked back tears and paused to compose herself when making a toast to the birthday girl.
“I appreciate you,” Anderson said. “I love you … and thank you.”
Chandler, who is as sharp as ever, had something to say as well.
“And I love you guys and you are my family … my real family,” she said. “I’ve never had such a special birthday. Look at all the special people that are here.”
There also were a few surprises.
Ray Grimes, founder and co-director of the Orange County Sheriff’s Museum & Education Center, showed Chandler her badge, gun and department ID, which will be displayed in the museum.
After lunch, Chandler rode shotgun in an OCSD 1962 Chrysler police cruiser, leading a convoy about a mile south along Chapman Avenue to North Chandler Ranch Road, a street named for the ranch where Chandler lived with her mother.
Chandler had heard the street existed but was seeing it for the first time.
Chandler had just turned 21 in 1949 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 & Wesson handgun.
Chandler’s job was to keep trespassers away from Peter’s Lake, a popular duck hunting and fishing spot that also was James Irvine’s private property.
After a few years as deputy, Chandler went to work full time, herding cattle, breaking horses and selling chickens at her family’s stables, Chandler Ranch.
Brea Police Officer Shannon Buckles, who has visited Chandler and attended the birthday party, credits Chandler, in part, for her being able to adopt her son.
“I would never be able to do that if it weren’t for the job that I have and I wouldn’t have the job I have if it wasn’t for her,” Buckles said. “It’s an honor to be part of her life.”
Santa Ana PD Officer Irene Alatorre made it a point to bring her 2-year-old daughter, Camila, to the birthday part, wanting the little one to be part of living history.
“We get to be in her presence and enjoy the next few years with her at least,” Alatorre said.
At one point during the festivities, the requisite question had to be asked:
What is the key to being 89 and happy?
“I pray a lot,” said Chandler, who is full of conviction and periodically shoots out some zingers. “I’ve been praying since I was 3 years old. The Lord hasn’t given me everything I’ve wanted, but I’ve had things I didn’t expect. Look at this. It’s like having my own kids. And I didn’t have to diaper them and give them a bottle.”