From helping rid Southeast Denton of drugs and other crimes, to changing law enforcement culture and helping local residents in need, they’ve touched many lives in the area.
Now the Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association is repaying the favors, honoring Lenn Carter, Cleopatra Birckbichler, Fred Hill and Leonard Logan Jr. recently for their years of contributions to the community.
“Those four have done a lot for the neighborhood,” said Colette Johnson, president of the neighborhood association. “Cleo and Lenn started with the neighborhood group. Fred Hill has owned the only black funeral home in Denton and helped people in need. Leonard had his barbershop. … Those four have been really helpful and just made contributions in the neighborhood.”
The Denton Record-Chronicle spoke to these leaders about their involvement in the community.
Capt. Lenn Carter
Carter’s work in the community began about 15 years ago when his patrol assignment as a sergeant included Southeast Denton.
After meeting with longtime SEDNA leader Carolyn Phillips, who died last year, and other members, Carter came to learn that the Denton Police Department and the neighborhood had had a cantankerous relationship over the years, and rightfully so at times, he said.
But as the years passed, Carter saw the group as an example of what community policing is all about.
“A lot of people grew to like him as well,” Johnson said. “He was very helpful when we had situations where we needed someone. He was always the go-to guy,” Johnson recalled.
Even when he earned promotions that took him out of the neighborhood, Carter still attended meetings, took calls from neighborhood residents and would often fill out the first reports when things happened.
“They still call me to find out the real lowdown on certain situations,” Carter said. “They always seem to have the neighborhood’s best interest at heart, and I admire them for that.”
Carter said he was certainly never expecting any sort of recognition.
“I have known them for so long, to be honest, I have come to think of myself as one of them,” he said.
Retired businessman Fred Hill
For more than 30 years, Fred Hill owned People’s Funeral Home in Southeast Denton until selling the business in 2007.
“Everyone in Denton knows Fred Hill,” Johnson said.
While he provided funeral services for many residents over that time, he would also step in when people needed help with funeral costs, she said.
“Seeing the need of people when they are in distress — it was just the right thing to do,” Hill said. “I helped them out with their other living conditions, [and] I just didn’t do it in Southeast Denton, I did it across the table for whoever.”
Hill said he was raised with a mindset to help others, garnered from watching people like his father, his grandfather and others in the community.
“You saw them do it as you grew up,” he said. “It’s not something you create yourself. It’s something you learn by being involved and seeing other people.”
Since retiring, Hill said he spends his days looking out for his health, but he mentors and helps out in the community and works in his church. He said he feels the need to continue to help others as others helped and mentored him along the way.
“Life just keeps on going,” he said. “Monday doesn’t stop being Monday because you no longer have a formal job. You do what you can to keep the community going. Not just Southeast Denton, but all of Denton.”
Hill said it was an honor for him to be recognized by the neighborhood group.
“It’s not something you walk around looking for,” he said. “You do it and forget about it and go on to the next stop, kind of like riding the bus from one area to another. It’s a situation where you pass it on. And you hope that people who watch your walk in life, those things you do right, you want them to emulate you, so that means you want to try and walk the walk and talk the talk.”
Investigator Cleopatra Birckbichler
Cleo Birckbichler was a patrol officer near the time SEDNA first started and often came to the meetings as a part of her police duties — “to attend, take notes and whatever complaints people had and formulate a plan to take care of any issues,” she said.
Those issues ranged from loiterers in the park after closing hours to code enforcement issues such as trash.
Birckbichler’s workload changed a bit when she was tasked with helping the police department diversify by hiring more women and minority employees. She has been the background investigator/recruiter since 2002.
Birckbichler noted that there were many qualified minority candidates, but there also were those who did not meet the department standards and were not hired.
Johnson said 21 minority and female officers have been hired under Birckbichler.
While her current position hasn’t allowed her the same amount of time spent in the Southeast Denton neighborhood, Birckbichler said it’s nice to know the association hasn’t forgotten about her and the work she did.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen,” she said.
Johnson lauded Birckbichler for being there in the early days of SEDNA.
“She was always there in the beginning, so people know she has been very helpful in the neighborhood,” she said.
Retired barber Leonard Logan Jr.
While he cuts fewer heads of hair these days, Leonard Logan Jr. is still going strong in the community.
Johnson said she wanted to honor him for the 50 years of service he has given to the community. Logan’s Barber Shop was a gathering spot for people of all ages.
“Logan’s Barber Shop helped all the elderly men without transportation, being right there in the neighborhood,” Johnson said.
Logan said he earned his barber’s license before he graduated from high school and has been cutting hair for 57 years. While he said he was not a fan of having to close his shop when he did, he said he is enjoying himself more now.
“I still have a few customers, but I am getting a little old myself,” the 76-year-old said.
He said he still travels to some sick and shut-in people who need a cut or a shave.
Being honored by the neighborhood association is an honor, he said.
“The public really has treated me nice,” he said.
Logan noted that he usually put all the placards and awards in his shop and would have done the same with the SEDNA honor.
Now, he said, “I just bring it on home.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.