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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Countywide

Department Honors 1st Women Officers

November 09, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

The first three women to carry a badge and gun for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department were honored for their pioneering spirit and service Wednesday during a luncheon at Todd Road Jail.

The event, the latest in a series of efforts to chronicle the department's history, was the idea of Deputies Julie Smith and Virginia Tinoco.

Dora Ponce Willeford, who died this year at age 78, became the first woman officer and the first Mexican American when she was hired in 1950. Her sister, Irene Hibbitts, talked about Dora's 31-year career during the lunch, attended by about two dozen people.

The other two recipients of framed resolutions were Leola Chronister, 72, the force's first female sergeant, and Mary Forgey, 85. Both women were hired in 1953.

"Forgey was the bailiff for Ma Duncan and she told stories about that," department spokesman Eric Nishimoto said.

Elizabeth "Ma" Duncan was the last woman put to death by the state during a triple execution in 1962. Duncan paid two men to kill her pregnant daughter-in-law because she was enraged that her son had married.

After lunch, attendees viewed photos and other department memorabilia, including a mannequin in one of the old uniforms worn by female officers.

Sheriff Bob Brooks presented the women with the resolutions and thanked them for their service.

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