I met Dolly about 20 years ago when we became co-workers at the Sheriff’s Office. We worked Uniform Patrol together before being paired together as detectives with the Criminal Investigation Division.
It was then that we spent eight to 16 hours a day together working the most horrific of crimes. Many of the crimes we worked involved death. Many of the crimes involved children. When working these types of crimes you get to know your partner.
Dolly was stubborn. She had no problem speaking her mind. Normally, her opinion came out of her mouth exactly as she was thinking it. But no one worked harder to right the many wrongs we encountered.
Lt. Col. Ron Hunton was our sergeant in those days. Karen Johnson, Steve Edwards and Joe McDonald rounded out our team. Chief Deputy Vic West was a major in those days and ultimately responsible for all of our actions. And sometimes our actions resulted in a rather stern lecture from Chief West.
One of the first lessons we were taught by Col. Hunton was to never get personally involved in a case. Everyone on the team abided by this rule except Dolly.
It wasn’t that she purposely refused to do it, she didn’t have the ability. Her love for children was too great. She loved them and after the case would end, she kept up with them.
On one particular occasion, Dolly told me that we had to make a quick stop before heading to our next destination. I ask for what reason. She then told me that it was the birthday of a child victim from a previous case and she had a present for her.
I said, “You have got to be kidding me. I’m staying in the car.” Dolly being herself replied, “You can end up in the bad place for being that way. I know your mama raised you better than that.”
On another occasion, we went to a school to get information about an abused child. Chief West told us before we went that we had better not upset the school staff.
When things didn’t go as planned, Dolly made her unhappy sentiments known. I never said a word.
When we returned to the office, Chief West was waiting. He gave me quite the lecture. He never even looked at Dolly. When we left his office she said, “Thanks a lot. That’s the first time I’ve been yelled at since I went to work here.”
Many times after grueling hours of dealing with death, we would come back to the office in the late hours of night. Sometimes we would kick back and sing a gospel song or two.
Col. Hunton would hear us and come back to our cubicles and look at us with his hands on his hips. I would immediately stop singing. But Dolly would just laugh and say, “Sergeant, is our singing making you nervous? If your heart was right it wouldn’t bother you.”
Ron would just turn and walk away shaking his head.
Dolly finished her career with the Holly Springs Police Department working for Chief Ken Ball. When she spoke of him, she not only talked about her respect for him, but she loved him as a person.
As much as Dolly loved the child victims of crimes, she loved her own children far more. In the many hours we were together, she often spoke of John, Arden and Katie. She loved them and worried about them constantly. There were times she would cry when talking about them. I hope they know that.
She loved her husband Tony. In many ways they were meant for each other. Dolly needed his calm demeanor in facing the trials of life. She often spoke of him as being a good man in addition to being a good husband. She meant it.
I could tell many stories about Dolly. She was fun and full of life. She loved the Lord and wasn’t ashamed of it. And if she loved you, you knew it.
I can’t help but think that as she drew her last breath, every life she touched paused in remembrance of her love.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.