Joan Tucker, who broke Wilkes-Barre’s glass ceiling as the city’s first female police officer, died on Sunday at age 69.
Patrick Rushton, a spokesman for the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department Retirees Association, recalled Tucker as someone who “had a way of taking control of a situation with no screaming, no yelling, and getting people calmed down.”
“I worked with Joanie for a few years before she retired. She was a great person to work with,” Rushton said. “And you knew that Joanie always had your back.”
At the same time, Rushton said, Tucker was “very level-headed” and took nonsense from no one. “She always maintained that professionalism.”
Police Chief Gerry Dessoye, who was a partner of Tucker’s for a few years recalled many of the same things that Rushton did.
Hired to work in Wilkes-Barre after working in Avoca in a small department with no female officers, Dessoye wasn’t sure if he wanted to work with a female officer. But he “found out quickly that she was every bit the equal of any male officer” he ever worked with.
Dessoye also recalled that Tucker loved animals and “would go out of her way to make sure animals were taken care of” for any call involving them to which she was dispatched.
Tucker joined the department in 1966 at age 22, according to a Feb. 13, 1967, story in The Times Leader archives titled “City’s Female Patrolman Shows Stamina Directing Traffic at Fire.”
The story, which did not carry a byline, noted that Tucker “endured the bitter cold and wind directing traffic around the St. Nicholas School fire area at the intersection under the South Street Bridge at South State Street.” It also noted that many thought Tucker had lost her job when other women were cut from the department.
The other women, it turns out, were dubbed “metermaids,” and did not enjoy the protection of a police officer’s right to not be fired without just cause.
While proud to “keep in step with the male members of the department,” Tucker had told the newspaper she could “go one better” if the department returned to using horses, as she was “an expert horsewoman, confiding that she has been riding horses ‘since I was this high,’ pointing to the top of the restaurant stool,” where she warmed up with soup and coffee after her lieutenant ordered her to “get in out of the cold and grab a cup of coffee.”
Tucker told the newspaper she wanted to become a police officer when she was 19, “but I had to wait until I was old enough. I took the test and here I am. Brrrr!”
The former Joan Basso, of the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre, Tucker was a graduate of GAR high School. She was a daughter of the late Paul and Stella Basso and is survived by her brother, Paul R. Basso, and nephews Paul D. Basso and James Basso.
The family requests in lieu of flowers, a donation in her name may be made to the local SPCA.
Funeral services were private. Arrangements were by Clarke Piatt Funeral Home Inc., 6 Sunset Lake Road, Hunlock Creek. Her obituary appears on Page 2A.