By Mike Fletcher
Tribune staff writer
— Linda Stroup has touched many lives in her 33 years as a Howard County probation officer.
That was evident Thursday — her last day of work. A group of men whom she’d counseled and assisted over the years braved the wind and cold to greet her as she exited the courthouse.
With a single rose in hand, each one — including her son, Ralph — gave a hug and wished her well.
“Oh, my God,” Linda said after seeing the small crowd.
“She was always an upfront lady,” David Arrenendo said.
“When I was on probation, she reminded me I had a family,” he said. “Now, 15 years later, here I am. I’m with my kids and doing good. She’s like a mother figure.”
“She really looked out for me,” said Ricky Lewis, who also has known Stroup for 15 years.
“She’s always been real fair and treated me like a son.”
A 1971 graduate of Butler University, Linda began her career as a juvenile probation officer for Howard County in 1974. She worked in that capacity until 1988, and has served as an adult probation officer since 1995 — until Thursday.
“I really loved my job,” Linda said, before departing her office for the last time.
“Looking back, it seems like a long time,” she said of her career. “Then I think, where has the time gone?”
Technology, she said, is one reason why she decided to leave.
“It’s less personal now with all the technology,” she said. “I felt like if I could sit down and talk to a person, I could get a stronger sense of their needs and vulnerabilities.”
When she started, Linda said she wrote everything down with a pencil and piece of paper. There were no computers and high-tech phones to mess with.
“It’s a lot different than it used to be.”
She said she modeled her career after John Augustus.
Augustus was a Boston boot maker, known as the “father of probation” because of his pioneering efforts to campaign for more lenient sentences for convicted criminals based on their backgrounds.
“Since day one, I’ve tried to follow that philosophy. I told my clients, ‘I’m no different than you. I’m sitting on this side of the table and you’re on that side because of the choices we’ve made.’”
Now that she’s retired, Linda said she will relax and enjoy life.
“I’ve always been a home body,” she said. “I like to read and work around the house. There’s a lot of things I’ve wanted to do at home that I’ve put off for years. Now, I have the time. Plus, I’ll do some volunteer work.”
Howard Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray, who has worked with Stroup for the past 18 years, said she will be missed.
“I appreciate her years of service to the community and to the courts,” Murray said. “I have a lot of respect for her and always appreciated her opinion.”
Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann agreed.
“It’s been pleasant working with her,” McCann said. “She was always professional and worked well with our office. I wish her the best.”
Along with her colleagues, Linda was a friend to many people in Kokomo.
“I have known Linda for 20-plus years,” said Charles Mills, a friend of Linda’s son.
“Linda was the ‘neighborhood mom.’ Her son, Ralph, and I met through a mutual friend when we were kids,” he said.
“All of Ralph’s friends were welcome at her house. We would spend hours in her garage working on BMX bikes or playing guitars. She always encouraged us, no matter how terrible we sounded. She would bandage us up when we came home bloody and bruised from learning new ways to batter ourselves on bikes.
“When I needed a place to live, she offered me her couch. When I needed advice, she always had it to give. She is an amazing woman.”
Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8565 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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