Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Fredericksburg’s Finest on Fridays – Bea Brooks
Position/Rank: Records Clerk
Years of service: 13
Let’s say you’re a crime victim and you have an appointment to speak to a detective. Or maybe you’re a college student and need a city parking decal, or you’re applying for a job and need to get your fingerprints taken. Perhaps you’re a registered sex offender and you have to update your legal address in the system. The first person you are likely to encounter when you come in to the Police Department for any kind of assistance is the hard-working and dedicated Ms. Bea Brooks. Bea works in the Services Division and one of her primary responsibilities is to greet members of the public through the big glass window that separates the Records office from the main lobby of our headquarters.
While Bea has passed the point in her life when retirement would be considered normal and expected, the lady who wears one of her signature honeybee brooches every day says she has no intentions of quitting in the foreseeable future. “I’ve worked all my life and I know I’m not ready to stop yet,” she says, smiling.
A Fredericksburg native, Beatrice Lee grew up in a house on Fauquier Street and lived there until the day she married Alton “Burt” Brooks at the age of 21. Bea’s father died when she was only a toddler, and she and her three siblings were raised in an extended family household that included her mother, her aunt and uncle and their child, and her grandmother. Bea credits her uncle with working very hard to make sure the large family had everything they needed, but she knew that college was a financial impossibility.
Bea started her first job in 1960 right after graduating from James Monroe High School, earning $40 a week as a legal secretary for local attorneys Franklin and Rawlings. She stayed for twenty years. She worked the next twenty years for several other area law firms, including eleven years for the Fredericksburg law office of Roberts, Ashby, and Parrish, before joining the Police Department as a civilian employee in 2000.
Her forty years as a legal secretary prepared Bea well for the meticulous work required in our records management system. Besides handling the array of requests made by walk-ins and answering the Records office phone line, Bea spends a great deal of her time manually updating the police paperwork attached to the court dockets. While the information contained on warrants and in criminal and traffic summons is managed in a computer database, the court dates and final disposition of each legal document executed by our police officers must also be added by hand to the paper record and filed when complete.
Bea completes this detailed task while she also deals with the myriad complaints and problems that present themselves at her window.
But Bea says that coping with the revolving door of human troubles, both large and small, is what is most satisfying about her work. “The Police Department is often the very last place where somebody can go for help. We have a duty to help them solve their problems.” Bea is adamant that nobody should leave our lobby without at least being pointed in the right direction.
Bea practices what she preaches. She provided direct assistance to a local homeless man called “Skipper” who had lived for nearly ten years under one of the city bridges. Bea helped the man obtain his disability benefits and move into an apartment, and for the last five years of his life, she took care of his finances, drove him to doctor’s appointments, and bought his groceries. When Skipper died in 2008, it was Bea who found him and made his final arrangements.
When I ask Bea about her bucket list, she answers that her life has been very full and satisfying. She and Burt, who is now retired from his career as a civil engineer and contractor, are approaching their 50-year wedding anniversary. They spend time together fishing from the boat they keep docked at Reedville on the Chesapeake Bay, and they also run a business collecting and selling vintage tools and sporting equipment out of two vendor spaces they lease at a downtown antique mall. Bea still attends services every Sunday at Fredericksburg Baptist Church, where she has been a member her whole life, and she helps to care for her mother, who lives independently in an apartment on Caroline Street.
Bea does admit to checking one goal off her bucket list recently. When the department started offering Weight Watchers classes after work for employees this year, Bea was one of the first to sign up. She has been extremely successful in the program, losing nearly 50 pounds through healthy eating and an exercise routine. She wanted to demonstrate her newfound fitness by walking the entire 5-kilometer length of the city’s Heritage Trail and Canal Path, and Bea proudly completed this challenge with her husband just this past Monday!
We don’t expect to be planning a retirement party for Ms. Bea any time soon.
Don’t miss our last finest feature: Detective Betsy Mason