When Nancy Ford Nichols took a position at the Naugatuck Police Department as the borough’s first female officer, it was something she did not take lightly, said Carol Ford, Nichols’ sister.
“She was proud to chose that path, and certainly never thought something like this could happen,” Ford said.
Nichols died on March 17, 1991, on Spring Street in Naugatuck while she was assisting a fellow officer during a motor vehicle stop. Nichols was the first female officer for Naugatuck and the first female officer to die in the line of duty in the state of Connecticut.
Several attended a ceremony honoring Nichols outside of the Naugatuck Police Department on Thursday, including many members borough officers, officers from other departments in the Naugatuck Valley and a number of Nichols’ family members
Det. Ron Blanchard remembered that Saint Patrick’s Day 20 years ago when his fellow officer — as well as classmate and friend growing up — died following the accident.
“It was one of the worst days of my life,” Blanchard said.
Many who paid respects to Nichols during the ceremony outside of the Naugatuck Police Department invoked her sense of duty as an officer and as a public servant to the borough.
“She was more than just the first female officer in the Naugatuck Police, she was a good officer,” said Mayor Robert A. Mezzo. “She was respected by her peers.”
Born and raised in Naugatuck, Nichols came from a line of police officers, including her grandfather who was once chief. She was in the department for six years prior to her death, as a patrolman and active in the department’s non-profit efforts.
Carol Ford noted that it wasn’t just her immediate family that felt the loss.
“When a police officer dies in the line of duty, it’s something that affects not just your family members, but the police department family as a whole,” she said.
In his remarks, Chief Christopher J. Edson also noted that Nichols was a member of the police family.
“Some of us here today never had the pleasure of knowing Nancy, myself included,” Edson said. “And yet, I know her, polices officers are members of a special breed, men and women who are devoted to a profession that is more of a calling than a vocation.”