As the holiday approaches, Marlene Long is looking through her recipes, anxious to try out some new holiday dishes to showcase the bounty from her herb garden.
Long, who retired Oct. 1 as a dispatcher with the Lake Township police and fire departments, is enjoying having the time to devote to her new hobbies.
“I’m liking it,” she said. “Especially with the winter coming upon us. I worked from six at night until two in the morning or from four till midnight.
“I don’t miss coming home in the dark in the winter. “As I got older, that was less fun.”
Long began her career in law enforcement as a patrol officer with the Lake Township Police in 1978, the year the department was formed.
Originally from Luckey, she had worked as a waitress and a factory worker, but had a longtime interest in law enforcement. “It was always in the back of my mind,” she said.
Sponsored by the Luckey Police Department, she attended the Ohio Peace Officers Academy through Criminal Justice Technical Training Academy, which was housed at the Lucas County Jail.
After serving four years as a patrol officer she became a detective, investigating a number of cases, including the abduction and assault of a young fuel clerk from a Lake Township truck stop in November 1988. The perpetrator, Oscar Ray Bolin was found, convicted and imprisoned in Ohio and was later extradited to Florida where he was found guilty of murdering three women. “He’s suspected in several more murders across the country,” Long said. “He’s on death row.”
She was also among the investigators in the case of John Lach, the former Clay Center mayor convicted of murdering his estranged wife Elaine with a homemade pipe bomb rigged to a timed mechanism behind the driver’s seat of her car in April 1987.
Mrs. Lach had left her job at the Penney’s store at Woodville Mall and was traveling home on Woodville Road in Lake Township when the bomb detonated.
“We went to talk to her at the hospital. She wasn’t able to talk, but she was able to respond by blinking her eyes and nodding her head,” she said. “She said that he had done this to her. She later died, but we were able to get her husband arrested for that.”
After spending 15 years as a detective, Long took an early retirement in 1997 to care for her husband Ralph, who was diagnosed with cancer.
“After he passed away, I stayed retired for six years, but I guess I missed it,” she said.
It was LisaAnne Gregg who encouraged her to come out of retirement. “She was dispatch supervisor, and she told me they needed help at that time,” Long said. “I had been thinking about going back – but not as an officer – and I thought dispatching would be good.”
The job, working for Mercy Lifestar at the Lake Township Police Department, was like “going home,” she said, but dispatching was different, harder in some ways, than police work.
“It’s a stressful job,” she said. “We dealt with three police departments and two fire departments plus members of the public.
“You’re often required to make instant decisions,” she said. “You have to keep the callers on the phone and calm through whatever situation they’re going through; and you have to get the information out to the officer quickly so they can respond immediately.
“The responders need to know what they’re going to and what situation they might be facing when they get there,” Long said, adding she felt her years with the Lake Township Police were invaluable to her as a dispatcher.
She recalled her shift at the Lake Township Administration Building on the evening June 5, 2010.
“I and another dispatcher were working and one of the officers had come in from the road to check on the weather situation,” she said.
“Two paramedics were at the other end of the building, watching the sky and saw a funnel cloud coming across the railroad tracks,” Long said.
“They warned us across the radio and at that point, we dove for cover into a closet in the hallway,” she said. From the shelter of the closet, Long heard a man banging on the door.
“He was screaming, ‘Help me, help me!” she said. “I said to the officer, ‘Somebody out there needs help,’ The officer left to try to get help, but by that time, the tornado was upon us and the building was coming down around us.” “When it calmed down and we came out of the rubble, I looked up and could see sky above us,” Long said.
She recalled as she stepped out of the closet, the young man, Gerald Lathrop, grabbed her and pleaded for help finding his girlfriend, Bailey Bowman. The pair had been driving along State Route 795 and had made a dash for the administration building to seek shelter from the twister.
“They went out and found the young woman in the yard,” Long said. ‘She didn't make it.
“And that was awful,” she said.
After 10 years as a dispatcher, Long thought she’d try retirement again.
“I’m looking forward to relaxing – getting ready for the holidays and spending time with family,” she said.