Local law enforcement and others are mourning the death of retired Lake Charles Police Officer Denise Hughes, who has passed away after a long but courageous battle with cancer. She's remembered as one who truly made a difference in many lives.
She was truly a trailblazer in local law enforcement - one of the first women to work at Lake Charles Police - where she was initially hired as a dispatcher in 1979 and eventually became an officer.
In a recent interview, Denise Hughes admitted there were challenges.
"I went on calls where they would say, 'I would like a male officer. I don't want you here. You know and you would get tested," she said in 2013.
Hughes was the first woman to earn the rank of both Lieutenant and Captain at LCPD.
She influenced many careers, like Sgt. Brenda Desormeaux, who worked with her for 18 years at LCPD.
"She expected certain things from you and if you didn't give her your very best, she'd let you know it. But it was done in a way where she wanted you to be better. She was our Mama Hughes. That's what we called her," she said.
Retired Officer Steve Law says she was a cop's cop.
"She was a perfectionist, a stickler for details. She was one of those people who, I don't know if I'd use the phrase 'she had something to prove,' but she had to be the one to show everyone she could do the job as well as anyone of her gender and the opposite gender. If there was a job to do, you did it and you didn't horse around and you had to be professional at all times," said Law.
"It made us better police officers working with her," he said.
She was loved and admired by prosecutors, too, like Calcasieu First Assistant D.A. Cynthia Killingsworth.
"Denise, she was a wonderful police officer. She worked, worked hard. She solved cases," said Killingsworth.
Hughes also served as bailiff for Judge Robert Wyatt.
"Denise worked for many years here at the courthouse after she retired from Lake Charles Police Department, and I've always found her to be one of the most pleasant and dedicated employees we've ever had here," he said.
One of Hughes' earliest friends at work at LCPD was former officer Julie Savage, who encouraged Denise, who was a dispatcher, to become a police officer.
"It was an honor to work with Denise for the 10 years I was with LCPD," said Savage.
"What an incredible woman she was. I have the utmost respect for her always. Denise was fearless and strong. Her humor was contagious and uplifting," she said.
"I pray she found a coffee pot in heaven, or somebody's in a lot of trouble," said Savage. "Until we meet again," she said.
There are crime victims for whom she made all the difference. Rape survivor Wendy Guidry says without Denise her decades old case would not have been solved.
"Not only did she go to it and see that the kit was tested, and a match was found, she was my friend throughout the whole ordeal and remained my friend. I would often tease her and call her my hero which would really annoy her because I'd say she was my hero and thank her and she'd always mumble, 'Well, I didn't do anything.' But she really did. She did a lot for me because she never forgot," said Guidry.
"She will always be a hero in my eyes. She could be funny and she could be very serious and there were times I could remember sitting in a courtroom and she'd just look over and wink at me and it was all the reassurance I needed that I was doing the right thing," said Guidry.
As Hughes fought cancer she maintained her dignity and even her sense of humor for which many will remember.
A funeral service for Hughes is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Johnson Funeral Home Chapel. To read the obituary click here.