Sue Ann Baker - U.S. Secret Service
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November Sue Ann Baker of the Secret Service

Thursday, November 9th, the Ladies of Lynnhaven gathered at Churchill Street Recreation Center for their monthly luncheon social. Lucy Mills and Doris Bouffard greeted us with chocolates as we arrived and Diane Householder helped us unload our donations to the Wildwood Food Pantry and Operation Shoebox. As we entered the room, Lauren Whitehouse and Karen Vollman handed out door prize tickets. Marion Getzes and sidekick Christi Mathewson were also inside the door to accept membership dues and guest fees. Around the corner, Kathy Warner was taking reservations for the club's annual Christmas/Holiday Luncheon at Savannah Center. Our guest speaker for the meeting was Sue Ann Baker, one of the first women hired by the U.S. Secret Service, signing copies of her book, Behind the Shades: A Female Secret Service Agent's True Story. We picked up our name badges and got our 50/50 tickets from Pat Biancardi.

Those who volunteered to bring desserts, dropped their contributions on the buffet table or in the kitchen. We greeted friends and neighbors and decided on a place to sit and eat our lunch. Iced tea and lemonade were available so we could fix our own Arnold Palmer. Of course, there was also coffee and ice water.

As we were finishing our lunch, President Ann Lewe started the meeting by greeting everyone and Lauren Whitehouse led the Ladies in the Pledge of Allegiance. Ann made some announcements, reminding us that we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, but we also celebrated our veterans on Saturday, November 11th. In honor of our veterans, she read a Veteran's Day poem by Cheryl Dyson. Lauren also reminded us all that the Charity Chicks Walk-a-Thon was early on Friday, November 10th. Everyone should be at the Churchill Street picnic pavilion behind the recreation center at 8:30 a.m. to make our donations and form into our groups... the 1-mile, 2-mile or 3-mile walk. All groups will begin together at 9:00 a.m. Mary Dooley added that Marilyn Hetzer hoped to be there.

Next, Ann Marie Barillo read some correspondence, followed by Mary Kay Willa reporting on the activities of Helping Hands. Marion Getzes broke her ankle was wearing a boot, so Ann took the microphone to her. She reported that as of today, the club had 180 members. Ann reminded everyone that the Lynnhaven Neighbors Gee Whiz Trivia, KFC & Side/Salad/Dessert Potluck is Friday, November 17th, and there was still time to sign up for it. You can also sign up for their Christmas/Holiday Party on Sunday, December 10th. They'll have The Ambassadors Dance Band and will be catered by Pasta Faire. It is $22 per member and you can sign up with Sharon Brough. Treasurer Anne Russell then made her report, saying that the club had $1,666.50 after expenses for programs, the bus trip, and the $200 donation to Operation Shoebox to help them with postage for their holiday packages for our troops.

Last, but not least, Kathy Warner reported that the bus trip to the Christmas Tree Shops & Altamonte Mall on Tuesday, November 14th, will be leaving from the Walmart parking lot. Check-in will start at 8:30 a.m., we'll leave promptly at 9:00 a.m., and we should be back by 5:00 p.m. The annual Christmas/Holiday Luncheon will be at Savannah Center again this year. Pasta Faire will be catering it, and 22 second graders will provide our entertainment, singing holiday songs. Ann thanked the Hospitality staff and all the volunteers who brought desserts. Reports and announcements done, Karan Vollman released the first table to get their dessert. Everything looked so good, it was hard to decide which ones to sample. Yum!


As we finished cleaning up our tables, Kathy introduced our guest speaker, Sue Ann Baker, one of the first women hired by the U.S. Secret Service. Sue Ann said she came from a family of modest means, her family did not have money or have any special connections. Typical for the 60s, she said that every time she applied for a job, no matter what the job was, she had to take a typing test... and she didn't type. There weren't many role models for women back in those days. While young women looked to their mothers as roll models, a teacher or nurse, her role model was Wonder Woman. She wanted to go into law enforcement. The picture below shows Sue Ann's graduating class. While the all the men had uniforms, there were no uniforms for the women and they had to wear their street clothes.

While working in the police department in 1969, she was approached about joining the Executive Protective Service (EPS) in Washington, DC. They were looking to hire some women. The positions were approved and she was sworn in by 1970. At the beginning, the EPS really didn't have a clear picture of how the women could be utilized, so they were often used for clerical work, but it turned out that the women were pulled to protect the wives of visiting dignitaries. Often the wives didn't speak English, so communication had its own challenges. On her first assignment, she was used to protect President Lon Nol of Cambodia and his wife. On her second assignment, Princess Caroline of Monaco was going to summer camp. Her parents, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, did not want secret service protection for her; they wanted her to have a normal camp experience. How could they protect Caroline under these circumstances? It was decided that Sue Ann would pose as a camp counselor and they had to find something that she could teach the girls so it wasn't obvious why she was there.

Growing up, she had always been in awe of Shirley Temple. Later, Sue Ann had the opportunity of meeting the actress and was surprised to learn that Shirley was in awe of her. Although it seemed that being an actress was a glamorous life, what Shirley actually wanted was to be in law enforcement like Sue Ann.

Sue Ann read a typical letter sent to women inquiring about becoming an agent. This was from Chief James Rowley, sent in 1963. Next was a picture of Sue Ann's boss, Director Rowley, after she and four other women were sworn in as agents in 1970. They were five women among 1,150 men in the Secret Service. She wrote the book about her experience as one of those first women inducted into the Secret Service. Her graduating class from the Treasury Law Enforcement School is shown below. The women were given firearm training and the Smith & Wesson shown was what they carried, which was heavy and had to be carried in their purse because they hadn't figured out how to make a shoulder holster for women. She was also trained to shoot a rifle. If you've ever shot one, you know that the backfire packs quite a wallop to your shoulder. The women were getting bruised and sore. Their secret for protecting their shoulder was putting a Kotex pad on their shoulder to cushion the backfire. Another picture shows Sue Ann with her classmates from Technical Operations School.

On another assignment, she helped protect President Tito of Yugoslavia and his wife. She protected presidential hopeful Shirley Chisholm, Senator George McGovern's wife, Eleanor, and Vice President nominee Tom Engleton's wife, Barbara. Something she learned when protecting the McGoverns was that a friendly crowd is just as dangerous as an angry one. She asked what was wrong with the pictures of McGovern during the campaign? In both instances, Sue Ann was behind McGovern, with the crowd pushing in to shake McGovern's hand. How can you protect someone from behind... you can't. That was her scariest assignment. She showed us a picture of her smiling and looking perky on the plane with Eleanor McGovern after the campaign. She wondered how she managed that on just a couple hours of sleep.

The job was extremely stressful, being on high alert all the time, with extremely long hours and little time to rest, and jet lag. She had had it following the campaign and wanted out, wanting to go into investigation, and asked for a transfer to L.A. where they needed an undercover agent to infiltrate a counterfeit ring. A picture of her disguise was shown. She returned to the U.S. Treasury department in 1974. The California weather was hot and dry, but being a dry heat doesn't make a difference. It's still hot.

A thirteen day, ten country trip to the Middle East with the Secretary of the Treasury, William Simon and his wife, was a highlight of her career. When in Saudia Arabia, she took a picture of some men in a pit, roasting eight lambs for a feast that evening. She couldn't imagine how hot those men were and they could stand it. Years later, she ran into Clint Hill, Jackie Kennedy's agent. She went up to him and said he probably didn't remember her, but he did and he recounted when and where they had met. "You gals deserve a place in history!" That's what prompted her to write a book about her experience as one of the first women in the Secret Service. Her philosophy of life and advice to women is to face your fears, be in the moment, breathe... you can do it. She said that being an agent is not a career; it is a lifestyle.

 

She took some questions. Someone asked about how the women were treated? As time went on and they did their jobs, they eventually were treated like the men. Now the Secret Service has 300 women and 3,200 men. Did the men ever try to hit on her? Sometimes, usually married men. When they asked what she did, she'd tell them and they would just walk away. That got a laugh. How did the women she was protecting treat her? When Mrs. McGovern was in the hospital and they talked, they connected as women. Most of the women were friendly, but they knew she had a job to do. For those who didn't speak much English, there were a lot of smiles and nodding of heads. It was a challenge for both of them. Who were the nicest? She never had anyone not be nice, but if she had to choose, she'd say Carol Simon and Eleanor McGovern were the nicest. Did you get paid the same as men? Yes! As a Secret Service agent, would you give up your life, and how do you come to terms with that? Yes, she would take a bullet for the person she is protecting, but you never come to terms with it.

How do they choose the agents that protect the President? She didn't know, but they work 1216-hour days. Now, agents are on duty three weeks, then off three weeks. Have you ever shot anyone? Thank God, no! Did she need permission to publish her book? No, but they did request to read it before it was published. What did she do after she quit? She became a private investigator in L.A. She met her husband and they lived in the Virgin Islands for seven years, five of those years living on a sailboat. If she ever writes about that, she'll call it Behind the Sails. How long did it take her to write the book? Four long years. Why do Secret Service agents wear sunglasses? It helps them to see, but they don't always wear them. Sue Ann said she had copies of her book with her that she would sign if we wanted to read it. You can also get it on Amazon. It's available on Kindle, as well. She also invited us to visit her website at http://www.sueannbaker.com/.

It was time to draw for door prizes. Diane Householder and Jeanne Fiore were the luck winners. Each won a $10 gift card, one got a card for City Fire and the other got a card for the movie theater.

We got our 50/50 tickets out next. Here are some of the winners, each getting $10 in cash.

Congratulations to ALL our lucky winners. For the rest of us... better luck next month (it could happen...).

A BIG Thank you to Sue Ann Baker... and thanks to all the ladies that provided those delicious desserts. You really made it hard to choose.

Next month is our last Ladies luncheon of the year, our annual Christmas/Holiday Luncheon. It is for members only, but if you have an out-of-town guest visiting, you can sign her up and bring her along with you.

See you in December....


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