Pioneer female detective Mary Fitzgerald has celebrated her 95th birthday at home in New York. The South Bronx native played host as a steady trickle of serving NYPD officers came to wish her well on her special day.
Born to Irish immigrant parents only a few short years after American women gained the right to vote, Fitzgerald joined the New York Police Department in 1951 because “I thought it would be an interesting job.”
Join us in wishing NYPD pioneer Mary Fitzgerald a happy 95th birthday.— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) January 17, 2018
“In the era of stay-at-home TV moms like June Cleaver, Fitzgerald broke down barriers on the pickpocket squad and then the Intelligence Division.”
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She was right: over a career spanning several decades Fitzgerald was asked to protect several of the 20th century’s most iconic women from Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir and Queen Sophia of Spain to First Ladies Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and finally, Nancy Reagan.
It was guarding Jackie Kennedy that Fitzgerald mentioned as the highlight of her career: dressed in plain clothes she strolled the streets of New York City a few short paces behind her charge, watching carefully for threats.
When she met the President she recalled, “He put out his hand and said, ‘And you are?’
“So he got a big surprise when I said, ‘I’m Detective Mary Fitzgerald.’ There was a lot of security, but I was the only woman.”
In pride of place in her apartment on Roosevelt Island hangs a picture of the First Lady, signed affectionately “With best wishes, Jacqueline Kennedy”.
Members from #NYPD ESU EMS helped celebrate retired 2nd grade Detective Mary Fitzgerald’s 95th Birthday. Detective Fitzgerald was appointed to the NYC Police Department on December 1, 1952 and retired on August 31, 1983 after over 30 years of dedicated service. Happy Birthday! pic.twitter.com/vZD5wzCQjk— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) January 17, 2018
But guarding high profile visitors to New York only accounted for a fraction of her working life; most of it was spent with the Intelligence Division, tracking down key information that helped keep New Yorkers safe from crime.
Now only a few short years away from her centenary birthday, Fitzgerald is in no doubt where she’ll spend the rest of her life.
“I love New York. It’s always evolving,” she told the New York Daily News.