Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gertrude Schimmel: First Female NYPD Chief, Poker Player

Saw a story earlier today over in The New York Times that Gertrude Schimmel, the first female chief with the New York Police Department, had died in Manhattan at the age of 96.

The NYT obituary for Schimmel details her fascinating life, focusing primarily on her lengthy career with the NYPD that lasted from her joining as officer in 1940 to her retiring in 1981. She’d been on the force for two decades when she and another policewoman took the city to court to challenge discriminatory promotional policies and won.

She was elevated to sergeant and then lieutenant in the 1960s, then eventually captain in the early 1970s. By her final years on the force she was a deputy chief.

Near the end of the article comes a reference to the fact that “Ms. Schimmel was an avid poker player who competed in professional events into her last years.”

I’d known that Schimmel had been an NYPD chief, although didn’t know all of the details of her story. I also knew already that she played poker during her decades of retirement, and in fact before she retired, too. How? Because I happened to have met her a couple of years ago when at age 94 she played in the Ladies Event at the World Series of Poker (from which comes the photo above, taken by Jayne Furman).

I had just told this story to some of my colleagues last week, in fact, during one of our dinner breaks from reporting on the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Amid a field of 936 on the first day of the Ladies Event, I’d seen Schimmel sporting an NYPD baseball cap with someone at her side helping her. Eventually I was able to say hello to her and talk to her helper -- her niece -- who told me more about her story, which I then shared over on the PokerNews blog.

I learned then that Schimmel had been playing poker for more than 50 years, and that like many who took up the game during the middle of the last century, seven-card stud was her favored game. She’d played at the WSOP in the Ladies Event a few times before during the 1980s and 1990s -- when it was stud -- and in fact final tabled it in 1998 (at age 80) when she finished fourth.

It had been a while since she’d played at the WSOP, and I remember her niece explaining to me that she’d had the desire to play it again in 2012, and so they made a trip out of it.

Having written a novel set in the 1970s that in part tries to imagine the NYPD as it existed then, it would’ve been very interesting to talk more with Schimmel about her life. But I’m glad to have had met her even briefly, and (like many others, it is evident) to have drawn some inspiration from having done so.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

in fact final tabled it in 1998 (at age 80) when she finished fourth.

Apparently she also finished 7th in the same event in 1982. (See here.)

5/13/2015 9:33 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Ah yes, thanks MOJO. I thought I'd remembered her getting to a final table back in the early '80s as well -- that one didn't come up on Hendon. (In fact, I think she might have made at least one other final table in there somewhere without cashing.)

5/13/2015 4:49 PM  

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