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Woman makes life brighter for State Police

December 04, 2000

Woman makes life brighter for State Police



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


MAUGANSVILLE - Maryland state troopers are people, too.

That's what Shirley Rowe of Maugansville wants the public to understand. Being a trooper can be a dangerous and frustrating job, she said.

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"I feel compassion for them. These guys really have it rough," she said.

She shows her support by decorating the Hagerstown barrack every year with holiday decorations and preparing for holiday and retirement luncheons.

For the past five years she has used old uniforms to outfit 26-inch stuffed bears, which are given to retiring or transferred troopers.

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The furry bears are dressed in each trooper's actual hat and down-sized uniform. Details such as tiny belts, cell phones, pagers and tie pins complete the ensemble.

Each bear takes about four hours to dress, she said.

"I just like doing it," she said.

Each bear's uniform has a tag sewn inside with the current year and the inscription "Sewn with Love."

"She goes out of her way for people in general," said Major Frank Moran.

Moran said in his 28 years in law enforcement he has met others who help out troopers as Rowe does, "but she ranks with the top."

"Shirley has adopted the barrack," he said.

Over the years the troopers have taken to referring to Rowe as their "barrack mom," even addressing mail to her that way, she said.

Rowe laughs when she thinks about the first time she ever came into contact with a Maryland state trooper.

"I used to be scared of them," she said.

From 1988 to 1999, Rowe worked at a now-defunct convenience store on Sharpsburg Pike which was frequented by the troopers.

"I gradually became friends with them. I found I liked talking to them," she said.

Rowe said she came to feel that troopers should be respected rather than feared.

A few years ago she was invited to a retirement luncheon at the barrack and decided that she wanted to bring some cheer to what she thought was a somber workplace.

Each year she decorates a Christmas tree in the barrack lobby with a different theme and makes silk flower centerpieces for the various luncheons held there.

She said it was Trooper 1st Class Troy McDonough who came up with the idea to make the bear-sized uniforms.

"I told him I'd give it a try," said Rowe, who had worked at London Fog making raincoats for 28 years.

For that first bear, Rowe made the uniform with her own material but found it lacking.

"It wasn't genuine. It needed something more," she said.

Knowing that troopers' old uniforms are kept by Maryland State Police, she asked that she be allowed to used some of them for the project.

After getting permission, she set to work and found the hardest part to be "getting the shirt sleeves to look just right," since troopers come in all shapes and sizes, she said.

It's her goal to preserve the look of the uniform shirt by leaving the epaulets, badges and name tags on.

After mastering the technique, Rowe said she has continued making the bears, presenting them to retiring or transferring troopers. She said she is also happy to fill special requests.

"I just do it out of kindness and love - to show them I appreciate them," she said.

She most recently made bears for former barrack commander Lt. Bruce Smith and Cpl. Jay Robinson, who were both transferred.

McDonough said he and the other troopers love the bears and all Rowe does for them.

"She's a wonderful lady, kind-hearted," McDonough said.

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