REDWOOD CITY -- When state park Ranger Patricia Scully was killed on Highway 1 by a reckless driver in 1976, she was only the second female law officer to die in the line of duty in California history.
But her name fell through the cracks and until Wednesday she was not listed on a memorial to the other 27 officers -- all men -- killed on the job since 1880 in San Mateo County. She remains one of the few Northern California female officers to die on duty.
With the full pomp of bag pipes, a precisely folded American flag and a white-gloved honor guard she was given her rightful place on the memorial. As her brother Thomas Scully, a retired San Jose firefighter, told the several dozen county law enforcement officials in the audience, his sister was determined to do something worthy in the world.
"And in fact she did," he said. "The loss of her, particularly at that early age of 25, was so sad for us."
Recently another female California law enforcement officer was killed. Santa Cruz police Detective Elizabeth Butler was gunned down in February along with Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker while investigating a sexual assault.
Despite her early death, Patricia Scully was a trailblazer, as one of the first women to be a California State Park Ranger and peace officer. She also had plans to marry, but her sudden and violent death cut her path short.
It was May 6, 1976 and Scully was on patrol on northbound Highway 1 near San Gregorio when an out-of-control Chevrolet Corvair slammed into her patrol vehicle, fatally wounding her. The driver, Manuel Santos Fernandez Jr., and three passengers had been drinking and possibly smoking marijuana when they set out to test the car's limits, said brother Thomas Scully, 66, of Santa Cruz.
The men, all in their 20s, were driving at 80 mph on the two-lane coastal highway when Fernandez lost control and collided with Scully. She died a short time later, ending a life that began in Rio Linda in Sacramento County.
A year later Fernandez was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in San Mateo County Superior Court and served 10 months of a one-year sentence in county jail. The Scully family subsequently won a $25,000 civil settlement from Fernandez but never collected a penny, despite trying for a decade.
Thomas Scully served as the family's advocate, though he is not a lawyer, in the civil case. After the family's lawyer backed out at the last minute, he found himself questioning the man who had killed his sister.
"I had a job to do," Thomas Scully said. "I was determined I was going to make an impression that he took something away from us that had value you cannot measure."
While holding accountable the man responsible for killing Patty, as her siblings call her, was important, her family was not focused on getting her name on police memorials, her brother said. Yet since then her name has been included on fallen officer monuments in Sacramento and Washington D.C. due to the efforts of Good Samaritans.
The pattern repeated last year when a state park ranger discovered Patricia Scully's death while scanning the Internet one night. He began pushing for the part Highway 1, where she was killed, to be named in her honor, which happened in June.
That effort led to law enforcement officials learning Scully was not among the names on the local fallen officer memorial, which was created after her death. San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who heads the county sheriff and police chiefs association, said after local leaders discovered the oversight, they moved to make it right.
"She was a trailblazer," said Manheimer, who was the county's first female police chief, of Scully. "And she paid the ultimate price."
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.