Widowed Chandler mom helps heroes and families - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Widowed Chandler mom helps heroes and families

May 7th, 2018 development
Widowed Chandler mom helps heroes and families

By Colleen Sparks, Managing Editor


Angela Harrolle has traveled the world and protected dignitaries in high-risk positions as a special agent for the U.S. Department of State.

But the Chandler mother of two never imagined the type of danger and tragedy that would hit her family years later much closer to home.

Harrolle, 42, lost her husband, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer/Paramedic Bruce Harrolle in October 2008. He was killed at age 36 while rescuing two stranded hikers in Sedona.

Now she is the president/CEO of the 100 Club of Arizona, helping public safety employees and their families, especially in times when tragedy strikes them.

Harrolle became a widow at 33, left to raise the couple’s daughter, Addie, then 4, and son, Justice, then 2.

As Mother’s Day approaches May 13, Harrolle recently reflected on how her own family is doing several years after her husband’s death.

She said the Department of Public Safety, as well as fellow mothers who have lost their public safety spouses, the 100 Club of Arizona, friends and relatives have rallied around her and her children.

“When something like this happens, the community outpouring of support is next to none,” Angela said.

Justice, now 11 and a fifth-grader at Jacobson Elementary School, loves riding a custom scooter. Addie, 14 and an eighth-grader at Bogle Junior High School, loves horseback riding.

“It’s been nine years and we’re doing very good,” Harrolle said. “They are some of the most resilient children on the planet. They’re very adaptable.”

The seeds of her current career were sown in the tragedy that she and her children suffered 10 years ago.

She had not been familiar with the 100 Club of Arizona back then, but the woman who was the executive director of the organization at the time, visited her within 24 hours of Bruce’s death.

That woman also was a widow whose husband had worked for DPS, and her visit gave Harrolle hope that she could carry on as a single mother.

“It was the 100 Club that came to my house,” Harrolle said. “They showed up at my door and gave us a check for $15,000. More than the financial support, it was the fact that the executive…sat across from me. I knew, if she could do it, so could I. I immediately wanted to be volunteering.”

She worked for the 100 Club for about a year and a half in program development, starting around 2011, then left and returned two and a half years ago when she was asked to become its president and CEO.

“I love it so much,” she said. “It’s the best job ever, outside of being a mom.”

The 100 Club concept started in Detroit in 1952 after a young Detroit police officer was shot to death.

William M. Packer, a car dealer and friend of the police commissioner, wrote to 100 of his friends asking them to donate money to support the fallen officer’s family.

Packer got a 100 percent response rate and the fallen officer’s widow was able to pay off a mortgage and other bills and establish an education account for their unborn child.

More than 40 different 100 Clubs exist in other states, and they all “came from the same idea or same principle” but each is slightly different and runs independently, Harrolle said.

Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, the 100 Club of Arizona provides help to public safety agencies, officers, firefighters, EMT/paramedics and their families around Arizona.

The organization, based in Phoenix, assists all police, correctional officers, probation and parole officers, firefighters and federal agents at the county, municipal, state, tribal and federal levels.

A one-time $15,000 contribution, like the one Harrolle received, is given to family members of public safety employees killed in the line of duty.

The 100 Club of Arizona supports not only the surviving family members of public safety workers, but also living public safety employees and the agencies where they work.

The Safety Enhancement Stipend program, started in 2004, helps agencies buy equipment and provide training to boost the safety of officers and firefighters. Last year the 100 Club of Arizona provided nearly $177,000 in help to agencies through the program.

Harrolle was thrilled when the Valley Toyota Dealers Association recently donated $100,000 to the program – the largest donation to the program in its history.

“To be able to do twice as much good is just priceless,” she said. “I’m just the catalyst. It’s awesome that they’re giving.”

The organization’s scholarship program, started in 2006, provides undergraduate financial education help to immediate family members of active, retired or deceased public safety officers and firefighters in the state.

Police officers and firefighters also can apply for scholarships to “enhance their current degree field.”

The 100 Club of Arizona provided $190,500 in scholarship money in 2017.

Its Bulletproof program is a confidential, anonymous resource that offers law enforcement professionals and their families mental health and wellness programs, as well as addiction awareness tools, assessments and guidance toward care and treatment.

She understands what it is like to work in a high-risk job trying to keep other people safe. Growing up on a farm in Lake Crystal, Minnesota, as the oldest of six children, she longed for adventure and to explore other cultures.

She moved to Arizona and earned bachelor’s degrees in justice studies and business at Arizona State University.

“I desired to see the world,” she said. “I wanted to experience other cultures, learn how other people live.”

After graduating from ASU, she accepted a job at the U.S. Department of State in 1998.

In her job, she protected secretaries of state Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice and visiting dignitaries, including the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.

She protected U.S. embassies and consulates and visited 45 countries, most of them through her work.

She enjoyed the adventure and did not think about the dangers she faced. “My scary moments in life are probably more (from) being a parent,” she said.

She still does contract work for the State Department, performing background checks on people seeking jobs or renewing work clearances.

Harrolle vividly remembers that fateful day in October 2008 when Addie told her someone was at their front door. She could see the DPS officers through her screen door and sensed they were coming to deliver bad news. After learning her husband had died, she put Addie and Justice on her lap and told them their father had a bad “ouchie” and would not be coming home.

When asked how she had the strength to carry on after losing her husband, she did not hesitate to say “my kids.”

“You have kids,” she said. “You don’t have a choice. You can’t just go hide in your bedroom.”

She said after Bruce’s death she was “very concerned about us having health insurance.”

When benefits ended a short time after her husband’s death, she had to pay extremely high premiums to continue the family’s health insurance.

She and DPS joined forces to bring about legislation in 2010 that provides survivor families of law enforcement officials access to health insurance coverage for the first year after a death.

Of all her accomplishments, she said she is most proud of helping to get passage of this legislation, known as “Harrolle’s Law.”

To be able to affect families for a lifetime is one of the best feelings on the planet,” she said.

She also is happy about the “First Responder” license plate program that started after she became president and CEO of the 100 Club of Arizona.

More than 20,000 “First Responder” license plates have been created since the offering started last year.

While she spends most of her professional time doing her work for the 100 Club of Arizona, she also continues contract work for the State Department. She also has a broker’s and real estate license and owns the Fed Realty Group, through which she and other Realtors help government employees who are relocating. And she is an investor-partner in Chandler restaurants CHoP Chandler, The Living Room Wine Café & Lounge, Humble Pie and La Sala Tequila Cantina, which are owned by the same group.

She takes in stride the many hats she wears: “It’s always a whirlwind, but I’m a much happier busy person.”

She advised other busy parents to get help from family members and friends.

“Engage your tribe,” she said. “Allow people to help people because people do want to help. It’s just the little things.”

One member of her “tribe,” Emily Leitzell of Mesa, said Harrolle is her rock. Leitzell, 39, a mother of two daughters, has been friends with her since they met 11 years ago. “She is, I would say, my hero, someone to look up to,” Leitzell said. “She makes you want to be a better person.”

“She’s like, ‘You’re gonna be fine,’” Leitzell said. “She’s amazing, an absolute pillar of strength. I don’t know how she does it.”

As for her children, Addie said, “She’s the best mom and dad ever.”

She said she remembers “little bits and pieces” about her father, including the last time she saw him.

Addie and Justice are looking forward to going to a camp in Washington, D.C., for youths who have lost parents. They will be in D.C. with their mother for National Police Week, when fallen law enforcement officers are honored during the week of Mother’s Day.

“It’s kind of cool when we go there,” he said. “We sit at this weird circular table. We talk about our family members that have passed away and everybody gets me. It’s like they understand.”

Addie said she and her mother like to cook together.

Justice loves riding a customized scooter and said his mother gives him “pointers when I’m doing a trick.” A baseball player, he said he and his mother also play catch.

“I love spending time with her,” he said. “She’s easygoing. She’s pretty patient. She’s really kind and loving.”

On Mother’s Day, Addie and Justice like to make their mom breakfast in bed. They also like making her cards.

Justice said he does not remember his father very well, but his mom “tells me stories about him.” He is impressed with the work his mother does at the 100 Club.

“She’s helped so many families,” he said. “I think it’s the best job ever.”

To learn more about the 100 Club of Arizona, visit 100club.org.