CADILLAC — People tell her children that Karen Gregg, a former police officer who worked with Cadillac Area Public Schools, helped them.
“Your mom changed my life,‘ they tell Erin Gregg, Karen’s youngest, about her mother.
Gregg, who worked for the Cadillac Police Department for 25 years, died Monday at the age of 69 after lung cancer spread to her liver.
Fellow cops remember her as a gutsy, hard worker.
“Sometimes people don’t treat female officers the same way they treat male officers ... if she had to arrest someone, she was in there,‘ said retired Detective Hartley Creed. “She didn’t back up.‘
Capt. Eric Eller was partners with Gregg on and off for three years when Eller was new to Cadillac PD. It was mid-career for Gregg, who worked for the police department from 1983 to 2008.
“She always carried her share of the load,‘ Eller remembered.
Prior to joining the force, Gregg was in the Army. She received a commendation in 1969, relatives discovered after her passing when they went through old photos and documents.
“We had no idea about that,‘ said Ann Clous, Gregg’s younger sister, who described her as “fiercely determined, fiercely loyal.‘
Gregg had a keen sense of justice and wanted to do right by other people, her family said.
“She wanted to know their story, know why they were in that situation,‘ Erin Gregg said. “She wanted to help you.‘
From personal experience, Gregg believed people could turn their lives around.
“She had a belief that people could start again,‘ Clous said.
For Clous, Gregg was a role model who showed what a woman could do during a time when the world was opening up for women.
“It was something I wanted to emulate,‘ Clous said. “I saw her do that and I was like, ‘I can do that, too.’‘
Family was at the center of Gregg’s world, her children and siblings say. When she was a young woman, she invited her siblings to her apartment. Later in life she hosted pool parties, bringing the aunts, uncles and cousins together, creating a network of support for her own children that will carry on after her death.
She was also known for her love of animals (so much so that the family is directing people who want to honor her memory to donate to local humane societies). She loved nature photography and even submitted photos to the Cadillac News.
Once, when Gregg and Clous were hiking, they discovered two orphaned baby raccoons. Gregg took them in and bottle-fed them until they were big enough to release.
“That was the epitome of her,‘ Clous said.
Other law enforcement officers knew that she would take in abandoned animals.
“She was everybody’s go-to for rescuing animals,‘ said her son, Chris Gregg. “She was a big-hearted soul.‘