DPD icon ‘Chappy’ facing her most difficult journey

Richard Chase Special to the Democrat

October 20, 2013

Not many people know her real name as she goes about her duties as the spiritual leader of the Durant Police Department. She is just known affectionately as “Chappy,” the department chaplain who for the past 15 years has been a pillar of strength for the officers and their families.

Lawanda “ Chappy” Mabery spent many volunteer hours bringing comfort to sick or injured law enforcement officers and their families. Now it’s her that needs the support and comfort, and no doubt the family of officers will be by her side.

Chappy has been diagnosed with leukemia and the prognosis isn’t encouraging. She has made the decision to forego chemotherapy even though doctors have told her it would shorten her life span.

At 82 years of age she has defeated cancer once before. Eight years ago she was diagnosed with stage-one breast cancer and since it was caught early, it only required surgery and radiation to overcome. This time the fight will be very different. “Everyone wants quality of life, not quantity,” she said. “God is in control and my fate is now in His hands.”

She received her basic certification through the International Conference of Police Chaplains following her training in Minnesota. Several times, she was called upon by the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Team to respond to Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina and Charlie, and once to a wildfire in Arizona.

She began her duties in Durant in 1998 after her husband of 31 years and a retired Dallas police officer died. Retired Durant Police Capt. George Brewster, who grew up next door to Mabery in Atoka, recalled the first day she came to work as a volunteer.

“I was getting ready to brief the officers on my watch and introduced her and asked them to let her ride along with them,” he said. “She quickly became a very important part of our department.”

She was called upon many times to deliver death messages to residents who had lost someone in other communities. Other times she was called to assist an officer where the presence of a woman was more appropriate.

Judy Stephens, an Achille teacher, found a toddler walking down the street on East Main. She called the police department and Chappy came to the scene and held the youngster until the family could be located. In addition to ministering to law enforcement officers on several occasions, she would be available for inmates or their families who requested spiritual guidance.

For the past nine years she has been a part-time employee at the police department helping with clerical work. She is a member of the First Christian Church where she serves as Chairperson of Elders, member of the board of directors and a substitute Sunday school teacher. She is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police Family Auxiliary, Oklahoma Women Chaplains, Oklahoma Women in Law Enforcement and served as a chaplain for the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief Team.

In 2000 she was named Oklahoma Chaplain of the Year by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and has also received the Excellency in Chaplaincy. She has also been instrumental in influencing others to become involved in chaplain work.

“I received a lot of assistance from Rick Connelly, Jim Harmon and Rev. Bill Ledbetter,” she said.

“For more than 15 years Chappy has been our spiritual leader and our counselor in times of need, “said David Houser, deputy police chief. “By the nature of the job, police officers see citizens in a critical time in their lives, answering calls for service and seeing lives destitute and in a state of destruction. This takes a toll on the lives, minds and hearts of the officers. Chappy is always there in support of these officers. Her motto is ‘Taking the presence of God into every situation.’”

Rev. Ross Kirven, who also has been a chaplain, said, ”She is truly a spirit-led person who has served faithfully in her role as a Durant police chaplain. “The Durant firemen have also been blessed by her ministry. Divine love has flowed through her life to many people—including my life.”

Chappy has a difficult journey to travel but she will be surrounded by the Durant Police Department and the many people whose lives she has touched.

“She has been with us through difficult times and we will stand with her and provide whatever support she and her family need,” said Police Chief Durward Cook.