Patricia DeNeal, shown in her Gary, Ind. home Jan. 4, 2012, has been nominated as a Marcher in the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration sponsored by the Gary Frontiers Service Club. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Patricia D. DeNeal didn’t set out to be a nurse.
“I was not one of those kids who’d say I want to be a nurse when I grow up. I just went into a career that involved taking care of people and I loved it,” she said.
DeNeal is being recognized as a 2013 Marcher at the Gary Frontiers Service Club breakfast honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 19.
The retired nurse — she worked at St. Mary Medical Hospital in Gary for 25 years, then as an associate professor of practical nursing at Ivy Tech Community College for 20 years until her retirement Dec. 31 — said while she is happy about the nomination, she does not feel worthy of it.
“I did what I did for a living because it was my passion to help others,” she said. “I believe I’ve touched many of my former students and seen them move on to do great things.
“There are people in this community who are far more worthy of this than I am,” she continued.
Born and raised in Gary, DeNeal is the oldest of four and the only girl. She’s an alumna of Pulaski and Roosevelt schools and earned a bachelor of arts degree in health at St. Francis College in Fort Wayne and a master’s in administration from the University of Notre Dame.
Another passion of DeNeal’s is playing the piano. She started playing at age 6 and at 12 was playing at the Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. She is a longtime musical director for the United Male Chorus and Sounds of Peace.
DeNeal is the wife of Harold DeNeal, mother of two adult daughters and grandmother of two grandsons.
Retired Gary police officer Joseph Slay Jr. said he felt honored upon hearing that he is one of six Marchers this year.
“So many before have held this title and privilege and I take pride in being a part of this group,” he said.
Slay retired from the Gary Police Department Dec. 7, 2004.
After serving in the Army Airborne for three years, Slay came to Gary from Mobile, Ala., on his birthday, May 27, in 1967. He worked at Republic Steel for a few years before joining the Gary Police Department Sept. 1, 1973.
In a 2004 Post-Tribune article about his retirement, Slay said he did not have any relatives in law enforcement, yet felt it was right when he made the decision to join the police department. He also credited his mother, Susie, for encouraging him.
“She told me not to be abusive and do not take advantage of my authority, and to be the best I could be,” he said.
In his 31-year history with GPD, Slay held every rank, including chief of police in 1995, except deputy chief and captain. He retired as a commander.
Asked what was one of his memorable moments as a Gary police officer, Slay reflected on an “intriguing time” when he and then partner George Bradley put the case together against serial killers Alton Coleman and Debra Denise Brown, who went on a murderous crime spree in Gary in June 1984 that included the brutal rape and murder of Tamika Turks, 9, of Gary.
These days, Slay is Grand Master of the Indiana Prince Hall Masons. He is the married father of four children and grandfather to eight.