Families connected by a blue line and a Red Serge
As our thoughts turn to family during the holiday season, the men and women, civilian and police alike, of the RCMP will celebrate with their "Mountie family." But for some, the RCMP and family have a much deeper connection.
There've been Mountie men with Mountie sons, brothers, nephews and grandsons for generations. But with the introduction of female police officers in 1974, new family connections were quickly forged. Mountie spouses came first and now Mountie women with Mounties daughters, sisters and nieces are part of the RCMP family tree.
It didn't take long to get management scrambling to deal with the first marriage between RCMP officers. Donna Morse (nee Burns) was in the first female troop, Troop 17, and worked with Ron Morse at her first posting in Port Alberni, British Columbia. "I wasn't looking for a husband," she laughs. "I was looking for a career."
The couple met, courted and married before Donna Morse finished her first year of service. They now have three adult children, one of whom is following in the family tradition and is a 911 operator/dispatcher in Surrey, B.C. "We joke with our kids that our first date was an autopsy," she chuckles.
Their supervisors weren't laughing at the time though. In less than 24 hours of telling their detachment commander about their engagement, a staffing officer made the trip from Victoria, B.C., tasked with figuring out what to do.
This first wedded couple, who are both now retired, was soon transferred to the Vancouver area so they could be posted at different detachments.
Donna and Ron's daughter Sandra Morse, 30, didn't grow up wanting to be a police officer. It was only after her mom urged her to go to an RCMP career presentation that she decided it was what she wanted to do. Unfortunately, a back injury when she was in the very last step of the application process and a later car accident have put that dream on hold for now. Instead, she became a civilian member and has been a 911 dispatcher for five years.
"It's the closest thing to being on the street you can get without being an officer," she says after finishing a 12-hour shift in Surrey, B.C. "We get to see all the action and experience it through the members."
And growing up, Sandra was actually able to watch her mom on the job on To Serve and Protect, a weekly television series started in the 1990s and documented RCMP officers in the Lower Mainland area around Vancouver as they went about the work of policing.
"It was kind of scary to watch her sometimes but it was also really cool," Sandra says, recalling one episode where her mom was arresting a suspect and was pushed to the ground. "She ran him down and got him. I was always really proud of her but this made me realize just how strong she is as a person – there was just no way that guy was going to get away."
Another Mountie family is four members strong with a fifth in the application process. There's Bette Anne Ibbotson, who became a constable in 1982 and served a dozen years, her husband Insp. John Ibbotson, their daughter Cst. Alexa Ibbotson and son-in-law Cst. Jeff Hodgins. And, Bette Anne and John's other daughter's boyfriend is in the process of becoming a Mountie.
"We do seem to collect them," laughed Alexa from Burnaby Detachment where she has been posted since finishing training at the RCMP Academy, "Depot" Division, in 2009.
Bette Anne and John Ibbotson were a "Depot romance," meeting while training in Regina in 1982. At first, they were posted to different provinces, her in B.C. and him in Alberta. But once they got married in 1983, John Ibbotson was moved to B.C. where they were posted in neighboring detachments, Bette Anne Ibbotson explains.
Bette Anne left the RCMP in 1994 because, with both her and her husband doing shift work while raising two young children, life was chaotic. "He would fly in the door at the end of his shift and I would fly out," she says. "It was pretty hard to juggle things."
So she left to work as an investigator with B.C.'s public insurance corporation in its anti-fraud section which was a regular day position.
But the RCMP was, and is, still a huge part of her life. "There're the members in my immediate family, but also our true friends are those we worked with, and they are family too," she explains. In fact, Donna and Ron Morse are good friends and were among the extended Mountie family who attended Alexa and Jeff's wedding.
"It's our RCMP friends who've seen us through all the good and all the bad."
Bette Anne and John's oldest daughter, Alexa, ended up following in her parents' footsteps, a big surprise to all of them. Alexa wanted to be a news anchor, and started taking broadcast journalism in college. But, as happens when you're part of a Mountie family, her dad was transferred half way across the country from the Vancouver area to Toronto.
Alexa, then not even in her 20s, went with her parents and enrolled at York University where she started taking, and enjoying, criminology classes. "I realized that my parents were on to something," she laughs.
So with the holiday season upon us, it's time to celebrate the people who mean the most, and for many in the RCMP, both sworn and civilian, the term "friends and colleagues" has a special meaning – it's all about family.
Wishing you all a happy holiday season!
NOTE: Donna Morse will be featured in the Dec. 22nd "Meet Troop 17" profile. Visit again to learn more about her inspiring career.
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