For 36 and a half years, Nancy Moreau has served the public with distinction.
It was back in 1985 when Moreau began her volunteer experience as an auxiliary officer with the Penetanguishene police force.
“I was watching officers go in and out of court in Penetang,” Moreau says during an interview at a Midland restaurant. “I kind of thought, ‘Jeez, I’m going to apply for this.'”
Part of the application process involved writing an essay and Moreau recalls it started off with the word “freeze.”
Moreau, who attended Penetanguishene Secondary School before going to Seneca College to study recreation facility management, eventually transitioned in 1989 the OPP when it took over from the municipal force.
“I worked with the RIDE team, ski-dooed in the north, went on the boats, I did it all,” says the 61-year-old, longtime auxiliary officer who lives on a 50-acre hobby farm in Wyevale with her husband Russell, son Ben, daughter-in-law Sam and grandchildren Dutton and Oaklynn.
The OPP Auxiliary is a group of dedicated volunteers who work with regular force OPP officers to ensure safety and well-being in of those in the community they serve.
Moreau says she loved the camaraderie that existed between her fellow auxiliary members as well as the close relationship they enjoyed with regular officers.
She fondly recalls her first shift.
First, she and plain clothes officer she was paired with "collected" alcohol from people drinking outside a Port Severn establishment before heading up White's Falls Road to check out the kids parked along the roadside who were "partying" nearby.
"We had a lot of fun back in those days," says Moreau, who received a $300 honorarium each year, but jokes that she would normally spend that amount on expenses related to her volunteer work in the first month or two.
Southern Georgian Bay OPP Auxiliary Unit Staff Sgt. John Iversen says $300 “doesn’t compensate for anything” when it comes to someone like Moreau.
“What I would call her is 'twice the citizen,'” Iverson says. “These are the people that work all day and then do this on their own free time.”
For Moreau that meant a variety of jobs, including a limousine driver at Casino Rama, a bylaw officer in Tiny Township, a canine officer in Tay Township and a jail guard at the Barrie jail before it closed in 2001.
During her time with Tay, Moreau even saved a baby’s life after noticing a car pulled to the roadside.
“The mother was hysterical,” says Moreau, who received a lifesaving award for her quick actions. “I just kept pushing its heart until it started breathing again."
Iversen says that auxiliary members undergo the same kind of block training as regular officers, meaning they’re trained annually in first aid, CPR along with self-defence, how to effectively take down a suspect and properly use firearms.
“The auxiliary (members) are very well trained and are the backup force to the regular members,” says Iversen, who along with retired provincial constable Susan Jessop are getting ready to fête Moreau at Phil’s Pub & Eatery Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
For many years, Moreau worked with Jessop in Wasaga Beach during her time with the Huronia West OPP detachment.
“I had the utmost trust and confidence in her," says Jessop, who joked about a time when someone called a full-time officer a "hayseed," but knew Moreau by name and said, 'hey, Nance'.
"Even the bad guys liked her. She had a great rapport with everybody."
Iversen says that Moreau has served as a sterling example of what an auxiliary officer could and should be.
“I’ve been with Nancy for the past 16 years,” says Iversen, who notes that the unit is now down to eight members with two members leaving after becoming full-time officers with the force.
Iversen says that Moreau played a big part in the changing role of the auxiliary from assisting with arrests to working on crime prevention initiatives.
"She set the model for the auxiliary force with more participation in the community," he says, pointing out Moreau has forged close relationships with a wide swath of people from students to shopkeepers.
During an interview, Iversen then looks at Moreau and says, "you set the example for others to follow and you don't even realize you set it."
Adds Jessop: “Another Nancy will likely never come along. Thirty-six years is exceptional. She worked full-time at the jail and then would ride with me at night. She's so passionate.”
And what will Moreau miss the most?
“It will definitely be the people, riding in parades in the community and not being able to do that anymore,” she says as her eyes start to well up.
“Wednesday’s going to be really hard.”
For more information on the OPP's Auxiliary Policing program, click here.