Sarah Jefferson-Simon touched the lives of many
For The Record- Debby Schamber
There are many words to describe Sarah Jefferson-Simon. A few of them are caring, dedicated, hard-working, God fearing, loving, determined and the list goes on. During her 55 years of life, her caring heart and warm smile touched the lives of many people.
Sarah died at a Houston hospital on Friday. Members of the community, family and friends are mourning the loss of this incredible person who could make everyone feel truly special.
“She was a good person and she should have been here longer,” said Diztorsha Lavan, Sarah’s daughter.
Sarah graduated from West Orange-Stark High School in 1980. Her parents wanted her to become a pharmacist. But, she knew from a young age she wanted to become a police officer. After high school graduation she attended the University of Houston on a volleyball scholarship. She returned to her hometown and worked at a local department store where she met the wife of Major Don Sullivan, of the Orange Police Department. Eventually, Sullivan met her and Sarah informed him she really wanted to get a job at OPD.
“Sarah was very smart,” Sullivan said. “She had an instinct for knowing how to do things.”
He knew there was something special and extremely valuable about her and went to talk to the Sam Kittrell, the police chief.
“I was somewhat skeptical but told him to encourage her to submit an application and we would see if his instincts were valid.” Kittrell said. “When I talked to her I could see the same things that he did.”
Sarah was even greater than either of us could have known, Kittrell said.
During the early part of her career, her friend and co-worker,Lisa Jackson, remembers an event which makes her laugh. Sarah had single handedly made an arrest of a man who stood about 6-feet-nine-inches tall named Baby Boy Blue. She proudly did this without any problems.
Within two years, she was promoted to investigations. Sarah spent much of the early part of her career working narcotics.
It wasn’t long before she earned the reputation for be one of the best undercover officers in Texas or Louisiana. In an undercover capacity, she worked throughout the area with many local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. She not only had the courage to work in a very dangerous environment, but she had the knowledge, wisdom, skills, and training which meant her cases passed the scrutiny of the courtroom, according to Kittrell.
“Day in and day out Sarah dedicated herself to protecting not only the lives and property of our citizens but to protecting the rights of all citizens,” Kittrell said. “She was tough on crime, but she was fair to everyone.”
To accomplish all that she did while still being the mother that she was equally incredible. She worked day and night but she was always there to be a part of the lives of her family. Her phone rang constantly. Sometimes it was information about a crime. At other times it was a request from a neighboring agency for help, and many times it was someone just needing some of her advice or counseling, Kittrell said.
For many, Sarah was the “go-to” person for answers to their questions.
During her many years of service, she took being a police officer seriously. Hard work and dedication caused her to work many hours. Sarah loved a challenge and if told something wasn’t going to happen, then she was going to make sure it would happen.
“She took her oath to protect and serve very seriously,” said Diztorsha said,
Sarah made an impact on other officers as well. Lauren Kemp, fellow officer and friend said Sarah, who is a strong and powerful woman served as a role model for her since she too was a single mother.
“She taught me how to conduct myself accordingly as a female officer which I attribute to my ability to remain in the profession as long as I have and the importance of balancing my work with the demands of being a single mother in a non-traditional profession,” Kemp said.
Everywhere Sarah went in the community, people knew and respected her.
“My mom loved her job, she loved the citizens and she loved the people she worked with,” Diztorsha said.
Sarah’s children formed a bond with Sarah’s co-workers too. It was not uncommon for them to pick up the kids from school. They all shared in the triumphs and joys of the Jefferson children as a family.
Sarah remained an investigator for 23 more years before her retirement in 2014.
However, Sarah did not have plans on retiring at the time and wanted to continue her police work which she often referred to as her “ministry.” Sarah was conducting surveillance in order to get a search warrant just a few blocks from the police station when she was involved in a wreck. As a result, she was unable to perform her duties and forced into retirement.
Even after retirement, she did not want to quit working, Diztorsha said.
Her service to the community did not end there. Sarah would run for Precinct 1 Constable in 2012. She did not win the election that time, but would win the seat on the WOCISD school board in 2014. Sarah, who always gave 100 percent of herself and, became vice president of the school board of trustees. She was also chosen by the Texas Association of School Boards to work other members across the state to make the education system better.
Things as simple as going to the local grocery store was no simple task. Sarah would stop and chat to some people, but also offer words of wisdom and encouragement to others. In the end it could take hours to complete, but in her eyes always worth every moment.
At home with her children, she didn’t always tell them “no.” But, according to Herman, her son, she made sure they knew the value of the issue at hand.
Sarah and her children lived by the Golden Rule, ” Do unto others as you would have then do unto you.”
But, she also taught them other things,such as never looking down on other people.
“You never know what they have been through,” Herman said. “It might be your day today, but it might be their day tomorrow.”
Most importantly, to love and respect one another.
“There is good in everyone and she wanted you to know there is good in you, ” Herman said.
It was common for Sarah to cook extra on Sundays and take plates of food to needy families or the homeless. For some it was a holiday tradition as they eagerly waited to see her smiling face and delicious food. This is something she learned from her grandparents.
“She had a lot of character and demonstrated it in everything she did,” Diztorsha said.
Some may remember Sarah as loving the color red. As an investigator she was required to wear dress clothes. For Sarah this included her high heel red shoes. But, when she needed to be in pursuit, she quickly kicked them off before running.
“Her smile is what I will remember the most,” Jackson said.
Herman and Diztorsha are grown now, but still treasure from their childhood. Both are impacting people’s lives, just like their mother. Herman is also a pastor at Old Field Church of God in Christ in Bon Wier.
A community memorial celebrating her life, love and legacy will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at West Orange-Stark Elementary School located at 2605 Martin Luther King Drive in Orange. There will be a public viewing 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday at Community Church located at 3400 Martin Luther King Drive. Promptly at 11 a.m. there will be a celebration of life. Following the service there will be a procession of police units to her final resting place which will allow citizens to pay their respects. The route will be down Martin Luther King Drive,to Strickland Drive, then to MacArthur Drive and onward to 16th Street and finally to Highway 87. A police honor guard will take place at Magnolia Memorial Gardens immediately following the processional.