Gangs Law Enforcement Obits

The Utterly Irreplaceable Mary Ridgway


Just a little before 1 a.m., last Saturday morning,
LA County Supervising Deputy Probation Officer Mary Ridgway died of liver cancer. She was 66 years old.

She had been a Los Angeles P.O. since September of 1966, spending most of her time working in East Los Angeles.

In the last four decades, she changed—and in many cases, saved—more lives than anyone can adequately count.

I first met Mary in early 1991 and, eighteen years later, I still consider her to be one of the most remarkable people I have ever known.

My assessment of her is shared by hundreds others—from law enforcement types to guys doing time in prison, and the range in between. Mary Ridgway is irreplaceable.

Her death has blown a great many people out on the trail, myself included.

I will have a full post about Mary either Monday morning, or Tuesday morning.

But, in the meantime, for those who need this information:

Services for Mary Ridgway will be held at Forest Lawn (off the 134) on Monday, March 2, at 11 a.m.

An event honoring Mary will follow the service at the Grace E. Simons Lodge, at 1025 Elysian Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90012, up near the old LAPD Academy


  • Well said, Celeste. And thank you for saying it. Law enforcement lost a good friend in Mary. No doubt. But more importantly than that, Mary Ridgway was a teacher, and a guide, whose wisdom, judgment and common sense was a benefit to everyone she met. Mary treated us all, from cops to cons, from prosecutors to perps, equally. With respect and with dignity. Fairly and firmly. And always with a smile. Which, when you stop to think about it, is how it should be. She will be missed.

    RIP Mary Ridgway. RIP

  • I will add in to what Bruce said. While she was “old school” probation in certain ways — inside of Mary there was a lot of the social worker. She had genuine compassion and dare i say it, love, for so many of the youth that she served and their families. i did not agree with Mary when we talked about gangs and violence and kids and their parents, but i loved her and so did many others. We will miss her.

  • she didnt treat everyone with dignity they deserved, what compassion and love? She tried to have my mother kicked out the projects after i was an adult. She turned her back on alot of people and had no real will to save those who needed it most. when it comes down to it the so many are only a pretentious figure. RIP Mary

  • Kooly, when I write the longer piece I’ll get to the part where I disagreed with Mary—in the ways of which you speak. As you know, there are a number of stories like yours.

    Mary saved a lot of lives. But she was also really wrong about a lot of people too, as we both know. She was a complicated woman.

  • Mary will be missed by many people that she has touched thru her professionalism and dedication to Los Angeles County residents. Celeste, it will be nice of you to write about Mary to remember her as the way she was. However, I wish at least you can give her a decent chance to rebut your future pieces if you are going to include any criticism. I am not trying to dissuade you to your opinions as I agree and respect that everyone has right to their opinions on many differing issues. I just wish you can respect that of Mary or give her a chance to write you back. RIP Mary Ridgway.

  • Thanks for the comment, Theodore. Listen: I have only love and respect for Mary, and what I write will reflect that. However, she wasn’t perfect. None of us are.

    We often disagreed. As did Mary and Father Greg Boyle, among others. Sometimes I think she was too harsh with certain people. Conversely, she thought I was too much of bleeding heart. But Mary’s great spirit—and intelligence—allowed room for disagreement.

    I wish very much Mary could write me back. I am heartbroken that such a conversation will no longer be possible in this lifetime.

  • Upon being promoted, Mary no longer had to carry a caseload. She still did for a long time. Why? Because there were people and situations that she cared about so much, that she just couldn’t let them go. She kept working with these people, in addition to all of her own work.
    Mary was able to dig in and help those that wanted to help themselves. She cared about them and knew that along the learning curve some would stumble and wind up in jail. She was there to try again upon their release. For those that did not want to help themselves and wanted to victimize others, she did her job and worked with our partner agencies to take them off the streets. She was the consumate Deputy Probation Officer and Supervisor. She knew well and cared deeply for the community and her staff – who she adored. Deeply missed – never forgotten. RIP my friend.

  • I was one of her DPOs during the start of Probation’s “CLEAR/SEO” program- 1996-1998. She epitomized the synergy realized from a balanced combination of social work and enforcement. The aforementioned combined with her intelligence, commitment, work ethic, and passion, made Mary the BEST probation officer I’ve had the honor to work with in my twenty years.

  • Mary was a legend by the time I began working gangs as a Probation Officer in the late 1980’s. She became a good friend and mentor, and I had the privilege of working with her at various times. Mary’s insight and knowledge was critical when we started the CLEAR task force in 1996. Her commitment and work ethics, as Chris noted, was unsurpassed, and her ability to gather information was beyond remarkable.

    Colleagues sometimes didn’t agree with her decisions regarding probationers, but they could not have known the degree of information and intelligence that Mary had acquired and applied to each case. More than a few probationers survived because they were locked up for a violation rather than out on the streets during gang hostilities Mary had anticipated. Mary gave her probationers the greatest of gifts, the dignity of having high expectations for them while holding them accountable for their actions rather than treating them as victims.

    She was truly remarkable and her legacy will include the success of the many youth she helped and the profound effect she had on the law enforcement community with respect to how she balanced rehabilitation with the protection of the community.

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