Monday, February 20, 2006

R.I.P. Laurel Hester...you did good

Lieutenant Who Won Pension Rights for Her Domestic Partner Dies at 49

By MICHAEL WILSON
Published: February 20, 2006
A New Jersey police lieutenant who last month won a long campaign to pass on pension benefits to her domestic partner died on Saturday.

The lieutenant, Laurel Hester, 49, had lung cancer, and her battle with the disease lent her cause a profound urgency as the Ocean County freeholders repeatedly refused to consider a resolution allowing county law enforcement employees to designate someone other than a spouse as a pension beneficiary.

The freeholders reversed their position on Jan. 25 after negotiations led to a statewide change in the rules, allowing police and fire department employees to name anyone, not just a spouse, as a beneficiary.

Lieutenant Hester died in the house in Point Pleasant that she owned with her partner, Stacie Andree. "I can't help but feel relieved that she's not in pain anymore and she's going to be taken care of," Ms. Andree said yesterday. "She's done a lot of good."

Lieutenant Hester began her career with the Ocean County prosecutor's office in 1982, said Dane Wells, who worked as her partner in the prosecutor's office. She was placed on sick leave in the fall of 2004, Mr. Wells said, and officially retired last month.

Ms. Andree, 30, said she met Lieutenant Hester six years ago, and they registered as domestic partners on Oct. 28, 2004. But under pension rules, police and fire employees could name domestic partners as beneficiaries only with the approval of county officials.

On Jan. 18, Lieutenant Hester appeared on a videotape during a freeholders meeting asking for "a change for good."

The pension would allow Ms. Andree, a mechanic, to keep their house, she said that day.

When, the following week, the freeholders met to approve the change in benefits, Lieutenant Hester appeared in a wheelchair and removed an oxygen tube to thank the freeholders.

"You have made yourselves an example of what democracy is all about," she said.

Her condition rapidly declined after the meeting, Ms. Andree said.

1 Comments:

Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

Thank God she won this fight. I had actually thought she should marry a good male friend who'd then promise to pass on her inheritance (pension, etc.) to her rightful spouse. I am so glad she didn't have to take that route. I am shocked those asshole freeholders reversed their original decision. I’m guessing the massive public outcry did the trick. Lets all hope they don't get changed back anytime soon.

9:50 PM  

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