Gail DeGeorge has had her share of contact with the Springfield Police Department, primarily due to mental-health issues. She sings their praises. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Gail DeGeorge called to give me inside information on several Springfield police officers.

I listened to her and then on Tuesday I met her at the Library Center, at 4653 S. Campbell Ave., to investigate further.

DeGeorge, 65, knows many officers. One reason is because several worked security while off-duty at the Walmart at Glenstone and Kearney, where DeGeorge was a cashier for 7½ years.

In addition, she has fought depression throughout her adult life, lost her job at Walmart, lost her housing on Kearney Street, caught COVID, has contemplated suicide and on one night, in October 2021, she slept at a bus stop on East Dale Street.

The travails of her life — primarily mental-health issues — have brought her into contact with Springfield police.

She called me to sing their praises.

They go ‘above and beyond’

“I don’t know how to describe it when your brain is telling you (that) you are garbage and somebody goes out of their way to say, ‘Hey, you matter to me.’

“I think a lot of the officers who work the north side do so because they want to help people. I think there are so many of them who are willing to go above and beyond.”

DeGeorge does not own a car. She does not have a driver’s license.

What she does have is a monthly bus pass. That’s how she gets to the Library Center, where she spends hours compiling a database of all firefighters and police officers — living and dead — who ever worked for a department in Greene County.

“I have the names of the first 15 Springfield firefighters,” she tells me.

Officer brings in psychologist

It was officer Brad Essary who in recent years counseled her when she was considering ending her life. He did this not once, but twice.

DeGeorge, despondent, had called the police department.

The first time Essary came to her house, he then called Dr. Bradley Powers, a psychologist and director of the Burrell Behavioral Health Rapid Access Unit.

Powers rides with officers and helps in mental health crises.

Powers was riding with a different officer when Essary called him to DeGeorge’s apartment.

Officer and wife stop by to drop off a Bible

DeGeorge often commends officers and her words are used on the police department’s Facebook page under the heading of “Springfield Police Spotlight.”

She wrote this about Essary:

“His demeanor throughout the call (which was face-to-face) was that the call would take as long as it took to get a good solution for me.”

DeGeorge lived in the Rancho Court apartments at Kearney and Delaware until 2021. That’s when she could no longer afford her weekly rent.

Officer Aaron Ramsey also has gone out of his way to help her. She knew him from Walmart.

“He is just an overall nice guy,” she says.

One Sunday morning, Ramsey and his wife visited DeGeorge and dropped off a Bible. They suggested a few passages that might be uplifting.

One night sleeping at a bus stop

DeGeorge says she lost her Rancho Court apartment because she lost her job at Walmart due to too many absences.

She vacated the apartment because she did not want to be evicted, which leaves a public record and decreases the chances of finding another apartment.

On that first day without a place to sleep, police gave her a ride to the Rapid Access Unit office at 800 S. Park Ave. She spoke to a counselor.

She was then given a ride to One Door, a Community Partnership of the Ozarks program that helps the homeless. It was there, DeGeorge says, that it was suggested she go to Safe to Sleep, an overnight shelter for women at Pathways United Methodist Church, 1232 E. Dale St.

But before she could go to Safe to Sleep, she had to test for COVID. She was positive.

As soon as she knew, she called the police department to let officers she had recently been in personal contact with know of their exposure.

She spent that night under the small canopy of a bus stop across Dale Street from Pathways. She shared the small space with two men who, she says, were protective of her. One was recently released from prison and the other seemed to be high.

Gail DeGeorge. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

She grew up in Springfield, Illinois

DeGeorge grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and has one year of college.

“I dropped out to get married,” she says. The marriage ended decades ago.

DeGeorge has no immediate family. Her parents are dead, she says, as is her younger brother. She does not know how he died.

After that night at the bus stop, DeGeorge lived in quarantine in a room at a hotel on Glenstone Avenue, paid for by Catholic Charities.

While there, she tells me, Officer Ramsey called Safe to Sleep more than once to ensure she had a place to go once her COVID quarantine was over.

DeGeorge lived at Safe to Sleep 7½ months. While there, staff helped her take steps to find permanent housing, which ended up being an apartment at Jenny Lind Hall, a complex at 711 S. Jefferson Ave.

Jenny Lind is for those 62 and older and also people with disabilities. Rent is based on income. DeGeorge’s only income is through Social Security.

Officer brings in husband to help with door

DeGeorge also wrote about Officer Mardie Keller. This, too, became a “Springfield Police Spotlight.”

The post concerns something that happened at Walmart. DeGeorge was working there as a cashier when Keller was there working off-duty security.

Keller knows sign language. In the presence of DeGeorge, Keller communicated with a 5-year-old deaf girl who was in the store with her mother.

DeGeorge wrote about the girl: “I have no doubt she will recall with some degree of excitement the time she met her first police officer and that the officer could talk in sign language.”

She shared a different story about Keller with me.

Keller also would stop by DeGeorge’s Rancho Court apartment to check on her. She arrived one day and DeGeorge discovered to her frustration her front door wouldn’t open.

But Keller didn’t live far away. She called her husband, who is not a police officer.
Her husband crawled through a window and fixed the door by replacing the door knob.

‘I struggle with a lot of self hatred’

DeGeorge’s life has not been easy.

“I struggle with a lot of self hatred,” she tells me.

The support she has includes the officers I’ve mentioned, as well as others. In the midst of stressful and dangerous jobs they have been kind and caring to her.

“If you treat people well,” DeGeorge says, “they tend to treat you well.”

She wanted me to tell you that.

This is Pokin Around column No. 108.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin