Dorothy Harrold is 70-years-old and not the least bit afraid to tell you so.
“I’m blessed to be able to do what I do at this age,” she said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
A Class 3 Deputy with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, she has worn many hats throughout her life, but manages to motivate herself with new challenges as plenty of folks her age are shifting into lower gears.
“I was just a motivated worker and I wasn’t afraid to challenge anything. When I was younger, before I started working, I was afraid of everything,” she admits. “But once I started, I never quit.”
Harrold grew up in Kane, Pennsylvania, “a beautiful little town” in the Allegheny Mountains, she said.
“I married shortly after I graduated (high school), had four children, moved to Erie, Pennsylvania when they were smaller – was a housewife until my last child was about two years old,” she said. “Then I went to work because I became a single parent of four.”
She worked two jobs in the food and beverage industry, waiting tables in an upscale restaurant from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., then managing her sister’s bar and restaurant from early afternoon until close.
Her strong work ethic did not go unnoticed and a beer distributor recruited her to work first in sales, then human resources and then data entry.
At this point in her life, she found herself in caretaker mode for her mother Katherine who became ill after Dorothy’s stepfather Bill passed away.
Her sister Darlene talked her into attending school to become an Emergency Medical Technician, reasoning that it would help greatly in caring for their ailing mother.
“I always wanted to be a nurse but never got the chance to go to school because I was busy raising kids,” she said. “We both went to EMT school and I fell in love with it and she didn’t, so I continued it.”
In her late 40s at this point, she was soon invited to join the local Fire Department and joined the Brookside Fire Department to train alongside firefighters, ably performing whatever rigorous physical feats were required.
“I never have felt old in my life. My body tells me I’m old but I don’t feel old,” she said. “My daughter (Carol) said: ‘Mom are you ever gonna grow up?’ And I said, ‘I hope not.’”
Aspiring to learn new things and overcome new challenges keeps her sharp, she said, and focused.
“Instead of sitting on the front porch drinking sweet tea and giving in to life, you know? I think that it keeps you younger, gives you a reason to get out of bed every day,” she said.
Her next job as a first responder was behind the scenes, working dispatch, which was “very nerve wracking but great,” she said.
A move south about 20 years ago soon found her working as an EMT but for a private transport company until she had to quit to once again take of her mother.
She was able to balance a part-time job with the Department of Agriculture inspecting the peanut crop with being a caretaker. When her mother passed away, she decided to pay more attention to herself.
“I got back into working out,” she said. “I used to be an avid runner and weightlifter for many years.”
It wasn’t long before she decided to enter a bodybuilding show at the Sumter Opera House, at age 67.
“Then when I turned 68,” I became a Deputy, she said matter-of-factly.
She befriended several Deputies who work out at the YMCA of Sumter and got to be good friends with Sgt. Lenell Allen.
“And one day he said to me, ‘D, go apply at the Sheriff’s Office for a Class 3 – you can work at the Courthouse, there’s two guys retiring,’” she said.
“I said, ‘I’m too old,’ and he said, ‘No you’re not,’” she recalled.
She was physically able to complete what was required and after a stint at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, she was onto the next phase of her life.
“I passed everything so they hired me,” she said.
Sheriff Anthony Dennis said Deputy Harrold always provides service with a smile.
“She has a great passion for what she does and has great compassion for the people she meets,” he said. “Deputy Harrold is a perfect fit in the Citizens Assistance Unit because of her personality and how hard she works to assist people in resolving their problems.”
Harrold said she takes pride in her job each and every day.
“And I have a big heart, so I try to be patient with people,” she said. “In order to help them you’ve got to understand them.”