Fresno County Sheriff's dispatcher unexpectedly passes away

FRESNO, Calif.

/*Denise De Pew*/, 49, died at her Madera home Monday. The 30 year veteran trained dispatchers all over the Valley to deal with the stress of handling calls and critical incidents.

For three decades, Denise De Pew was a voice many Fresno County residents heard when they called for help. In 2007, Action News spent time in the dispatch center at the Fresno County sheriff's office. Denise shared with us some of the challenges of her job. "One of the hardest things is getting them to calm down and answer the questions that you need them to answer to get them the help they need."

Her voice was a familiar sound to Deputy Tim Herzog. He works the same shift as Denise and says she was friendly and professional, and when he had a hot call was thorough and direct.

Deputy Herzog said, "She gave you absolutely everything she had and you knew that when she was on the radio everything was going to be handled."

A second generation employee, Denise began her career at the Sheriff's Office when she was just 20 years old. Her mother was a dispatcher at the department as well.

Sheriff Margaret Mims has known and worked with Denise much of her career. She remembers their last conversation well.

"I talked with her just last week and she was telling me how much she enjoyed working at the sheriff's office," said Sheriff Mims. "We reminisced about people in the past that we had known here and she told me she was very much looking forward to her retirement coming up in March."

Dispatchers who worked with Denise were too upset to talk with us on camera, because she was more than a friend, she was a mentor who trained many of them to be the great communicators they are today.

Denise left work Christmas night with flu like symptoms. When she never showed up for work Monday, an officer went to her home and found she had passed away. Her sudden death has saddened the whole department.

Deputy Herzog knows he will miss Denise. He wishes he let her know how much her calm voice made his job easier.

"Unfortunately I'll never get the chance to tell Denise how much she meant to me," said Deputy Herzog. But I won't miss that opportunity with the other dispatchers, I won't"

Back when Action News met Denise, she gave us a message for everyone she serves. It still applies today. "Just pay attention to your surroundings, especially in emergency situations."

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