One of Evansville's first female police officers died of injuries suffered in a traffic accident this weekend.
Norma Jean is well known within the department and you could even call her a movie star. She played a homicide victim in a film produced to educate new officers on homicide investigations.
She spoke at the FOP Christmas party just last weekend and friends are remembering those last few moments with Jean.
"The lady had so many friends it was unbelievable. It seems like she knew everybody and if she didn't know them, she soon would," said Sgt. Rick Hubbard.
Jean, who went by her maiden name, Pace, during her time with the department, worked foot patrols, in the record room, and even served as a decoy in undercover purse snatching investigations.
Fellow officers say she did it all.
"A lot of times the police women would have to go on special details at bars. They would have to take prostitutes into the health department for testing and so forth," Hubbard said.
Hubbard knew Jean very well. His mother, Officer Auretta Hubbard, worked for many years with her.
"One of her best things you can love about Jean was that she always thought about other people first. Like most policemen, they can be stubborn at times, so was Jean. She was funny when she was and she was quite a lady," Hubbard said.
Her friends and fellow officers say she was strict. Former Officer Bob Greenfield met her when she trained him in the records room.
"She had tenacity. She'd do the work and she'd get the job done. She demanded performance," Greenfield said.
But she also had quite the sense of humor.
"When I was President of the FOP, Jean came up to me and says, 'I'm going to be president.' I looked at her and I said, 'Jean I am president.' She said, 'No, not of the FOP, of the Retired Police and Fire Association. So we're now even,'" Hubbard shared.
"I'd been through there so many times, there was never any traffic. Jean always wanted me to drive. We'd take her van and I'd drive. I'd always bust through the stop signs and red lights and she'd say, 'ROBERT,'" Greenfield said.
Jean has a long list of "firsts" with the department. She was the first woman to take the merit test when the department implemented the ability based hiring process.
"At one point, this was all political. So to go through the merit hiring system, once you got hired, you were hired. There was no just taking off, you were thing. So yes, that was a huge, huge thing," Hubbard said.
She was the first female officer to wear pants, not the traditional skirt and sailor cap the women were issued. She was also the first woman to carry a marksmen rating on the police department.
Her son, Jim Pace, says she was a better shot than the men and was proud of it. But he says she wasn't one to brag.
"She loved the job. She loved the challenge, loved the people in the community and it was extremely important to her," Pace shared.
Her son says he was overwhelmed by the number of visitors who came to see Jean in the hospital.
"I hope they remember that she wanted to make things happen for everybody, but she really wanted to make things happen for women, to give them that opportunity. I hope the young officers realize what she did," Pace said.
Visitation for Jean will be Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Bradley's Colonial Chapel in Boonville and funeral services will be Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. at St. Clements Catholic Church, also in Boonville.
Friends tell 14 News that she was very active at St. Clements Church and say she was never afraid to take the money bag to the bank. She told them she still had her permit to carry her weapon and said the money was safe with her.
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