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Dorothy Bergquist, the state's first uniformed female police officer, died Wednesday, Nov. 5.
Bergquist, a longtime North Hampton resident, was 83. She started working for the Hampton Police Department in 1968, arriving with a personality that made her more than capable of keeping up in what was then a "man's world," according to those many who knew her. She worked inside the station, serving as secretary to five police chiefs during her 27-year career.
"She was a real pistol," said her son, Bob Bergquist, of North Hampton. "She was a trailblazer. She blazed a trail for women in police work."
Her actual pistol was carried in her purse, Bergquist said. That was the style of the day, according to former Hampton Police Chief Paul Leavitt, who hired Bergquist. Female officers had a special purse, instead of a belt holster that had a slot for a handgun and handcuffs.
"At that time, woman in law enforcement were few and far between," said Leavitt, who now lives in Waterville Valley. "I hired her as a secretary. Dot was a very skilled and talented person. There was a mutual decision to have her work in uniform. She went through training. More often than not, she helped around the station. In the summer, the beach was busy. We could have 100 or more people arrested for various crimes. She was in uniform, carried a firearm."
Those were the years of the Hampton Beach riots, though Bergquist arrived after the major demonstrations, Leavitt said.
"She was a very loyal, honest individual and bright as a new penny," he said.
That his mother was the first certified female police officer in the state "was a story told from day one," said Bergquist, though he has no proof of that accomplishment.
"There's no plaque commemorating that fact," he said.
The Police Standards and Training Council in Concord wasn't established until 1971 and would have no record of Bergquist's first-in-the-state status, according to a representative of the state agency.
Former Hampton Police chief Robert Mark, though, confirmed Bergquist was the state's first certified female officer.
"She was a wonderful person," said Mark, who is now working in Florida. "She maintained the office. She was a very efficient individual, she wore a badge. She was a real lady, very highly intelligent. She had the respect of all of the police officers. No one messed with her."
Retired sergeant John Nickerson said "Dottie Bergquist was one of the greatest people we had."
"She ended up multi-tasking," he said. "She dispatched, she was the chief's secretary, she sent out insurance reports, accident reports. It took us a long time to convince her to leave for lunch and call somebody in. She was like a mother hen with all the boys out there."
Bergquist was 43 when, with her two sons grown and her husband William retired from the Air Force, she decided she wanted a job outside the home.
"I think she answered an ad in the Hampton Union," said Bob Bergquist. "Knowing mom, she probably said, 'That looks like fun, I'll do that.'"
Her only training up to that point was from her job as a teenager working in a military supply depot during World War II in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Also, as an avid hunter, "she could out shoot most men," said her son.
"She was a totally, totally dedicated cop," Bergquist said. "She brought her work home every night. She'd work to three or four in the morning, doing the budgets. She never put in for overtime."
Bergquist retired in 1995 at age 70. She and Detective Art Wardle, who retired the same year, shared a retirement party at the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel.
Dottie was already at the station when he came onboard in 1974, he said.
"She wasn't any wallflower by any means, she always spoke her mind and you always knew where you stood with her," Wardle said. "She never went after the sergeant's position, she was certainly qualified for it. She liked doing what she was doing. She was loyal beyond description. I remember her Texas accent, I could barely understand her at first."
Dottie and her husband moved to North Hampton in 1958 when William was transferred to Pease Air Force Base. They raised two sons.
"As a teenager, it was kind of a pain in the (butt) having a cop for a mom," said Bergquist, 58, owner of the environmental marketing and sales company, Lakefront Enterprises, Inc.
Bergquist had been his mother's caretaker. His brother was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1985; his father died a year later.
Bergquist was at his mother's side in the hospital, where she told him, he said, "Bob, you look like (crap), go home and get some sleep."
She was an avid golfer and often took him with her, he said, where she used the game to teach him about life.
"Mom was a very humble woman," Bergquist said. "I don't think she viewed herself as a path breaker or making history. I think when she found out (she was the first), she was proud. We were all proud of her."
Dorothy Bergquist will be buried Tuesday in the North Hampton cemetery. No church service or calling hours are scheduled.
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