TREASURE ISLAND — For more than 30 years, Kathi Lovelace patrolled the city's streets, investigated its crimes and found lost dogs, cats, snakes, birds and wedding rings.
Last week, hundreds of residents, friends, family and officials gathered at the Community Center to say an enthusiastic "thank you" as she retired from her official law enforcement duties.
"It has been a privilege and an honor to work with you. … I am a better officer and police chief because of you," police Chief Armand Boudreau told Lovelace.
He then presented her with a plaque, a memento-filled shadow box and an album filled with photos from her career on the city's police force.
Boudreau recounted how Lovelace interviewed Citrus County residents during the 2005 investigation into the Jessica Lunsford abduction and murder as part of the state's Child Abduction Response Team.
"She has dedicated herself to becoming the voice for those who cannot speak, our children," Boudreau said.
As a Treasure Island detective, she specialized in burglary, fraud, domestic violence and child abuse.
Over the years, she earned certifications as a crime scene investigator, law enforcement instructor and hostage negotiator.
Her work was recognized recently by the Florida Attorney General's Office, which presented her with an Outstanding Achievement Award.
Residents attending the retirement party gave their loudest applause when reminded how Lovelace created the city's Pet Profile Program.
She and her partner of 15 years, David Schilt, also now retired, took photos and identifying information about pets during the city's annual Community Day.
"That way, if anyone saw a lost dog or cat, we could look them up in our files and reunite the animal with their owner," Schilt said.
He told of the two detectives investigating a robbery in the late 1990s that took a trip to North Carolina to solve.
"It was kind of personal for us," Schilt said. "An elderly couple staying at one of our hotels was tied up and robbed."
One of the items stolen was the woman's wedding ring, which included three diamonds, one marking her engagement, and the other two given at the couple's 25th and 50th anniversaries.
Lovelace says finding the ring in a pawnshop was one of her most satisfying case resolutions. "To the victims, the ring was priceless," Lovelace said.
In an unrelated incident some years later, another wedding ring was lost on the city's beach. Boudreau recounted how Lovelace backtracked the visitors' movements, recovered the ring well after they had returned home, and personally paid to overnight the ring back to the couple.
Lovelace was known in the city for doing many things out of the ordinary:
• Leaving "welcome home" notes on the doors of residents who would soon return from their vacations.
• Taking into "custody" a rescued loon until the bird sanctuary could pick it up.
• Paying for the cremation of a family pet when the crying owner could not afford it.
• Capturing a snake that had invaded a frantic homeowner's bedroom.
Her daughter, Jennifer Tolisano, recalled how her younger sister, Dana, would tell their mother to "go bam-bam the bad guys" each morning as she left for work.
That work has been "amazing," Lovelace told the audience, reminding them to "be safe, be respectful, and be kind."
Schilt said simply, "Kathi is just an amazing person. She is my best friend and has a heart of gold."
Resident Dominique Reiter and Police Department office manager Charlotte Jones spent six weeks organizing the party and collecting donations of food, party items and cash from more than 30 groups, businesses and individuals.
"It was a labor of love," Reiter said.
In retirement, Lovelace said, she would "do nothing" for at least a year.
Those plans are quickly changing, however, given the devastation in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. In a few weeks, Lovelace hopes to go to Texas to join others in rescuing, feeding and fostering homeless pets.