MARSHALL - Vi Croft was a young, widowed mother of two small children when she served as the sheriff of Lyon County in 1946, Minnesota's only female sheriff at that time.
She died Jan. 24 at the age of 95 in Yakima, Wash.
Vi's husband, Harry B. Croft, was the Lyon County Sheriff when he died at the age of 48.
"He died of a cerebral hemorrhage," said their daughter, Carol Ladd of Yakima. "Boom - he was gone."
When Ladd was a baby, the family lived in the sheriff's house near the courthouse. The jail was in the back of their house.
Vi Croft was born on a farm near Lamberton and attended high school in Tracy.
"After graduation," according to her obituary, "Vi found a job at The Eat Shop, a local diner popular with the railroad and factory workers. One of the diner regulars was Tracy's Chief of Police, Harry B. Croft, who clearly found more than just the food to his liking. The police chief and young waitress soon married. In 1938, they moved to Marshall, Minnesota, where Harry's spirited door-to-door campaign quickly won him election as Sheriff of Lyon County. Harry's new job brought with it the perk of living in a lovely Victorian house, although the jail was attached to the back. Vi and Harry ran the Sheriff's office together, with Vi serving as bailiff, cook, and the jailer for female inmates. Often she helped transport inmates to distant detention facilities around the state."
Since Vi was familiar with the day-to-day workings of the job, she was appointed sheriff and served out her husband's term.
Sometimes being a woman was to her advantage, Ladd said.
"When she had to arrest someone, they didn't want to fight a woman," Ladd said. "They gave her respect. They went quiet and easy."
One time, Ladd said, her mother had to bring in a mentally unstable man.
"She started talking to him," Ladd said. "She asked him if he wanted to take a ride. He said, 'OK' and then he walked right into the cell. After she turned the key, he went ballistic."
The city fathers asked Vi, who was trained to use firearms, if she wanted to run for sheriff after her term was done, but she had two little girls, Carol, who was 3, and Naomi, who was 1, to take care of, so she declined.
After marrying Walter E. Jones, who owned a Marshall theater, in 1952, the family moved to Fresno, Calif. Following Walt's death in 1962, Vi returned to work and spent the next 17 years as a bookkeeper at the YWCA. She and Alden Hazen were married in 1983. Widowed a third time after Alden's death in 1997, Vi moved to Albany, Ore., in 2000 and then to Yakima in 2005 to stay close to her family, her obituary said.