“She still had two cats she rescued from a meth lab,” said Darlene Gilman, her sister. “It seemed nobody rescued more animals in this world than Linda. It was as if they were all her children. She had the biggest heart.”
Bergstrom, 58, died suddenly from respiratory failure on Feb. 19.
In more than three decades with the park police, Bergstrom was the first woman to become a sergeant, then the first to become a lieutenant. In 2010, she was named chief.
Recognized by her peers and the commanders at the Minneapolis Police Department, Bergstrom received a Medal of Commendation and two Awards of Merit from that department. Her file was also filled with many letters of appreciation.
In 1984, not too far past her rookie days, she was recognized for volunteering quickly to back up two officers confronted by a gunman. The suspect finally dropped his weapon and surrendered, but Bergstrom’s supervisors admired her handling of the crisis. “They showed restraint when they all had the right to shoot this man,” the commendation read.
Seven years later, as a sergeant, she stepped up to investigate a fatal hit-and-run case. “By the time they were done, they had arrested the suspect in the fatality, recovered the hit-and-run vehicle, and gathered a considerable amount of evidence that might not have been as easily obtained had the investigation been done at a later time,” read her Award of Merit commendation. “Excellent work, above and beyond.”
“She said that she always loved working the Minneapolis North Side, and the best time of her career was when she was on the street working with her guys,” said Shirley Drellack, another sister. “Those were her guys. Being chief was extremely stressful. But she always told each officer, ‘Every officer here is treated the same.’ ”
Gilman said her sister had that fine touch that comes with innately understanding the troubles of her colleagues, at home or on the job. “When she knew an officer had troubles, she’d quietly loan some money or buy a meal to help them,” she said. “She was always paid back. She was so generous.”
When her brother-in-law, Larry Drellack, retired from the force, Bergstrom made one special request of the department. “As a way to honor him, she took his badge number: 711,” Gilman said.
Bergstrom was the youngest of nine siblings. She is survived by five sisters and three brothers. Services are expected to be held in conjunction with the park police this spring or early summer, Gilman said.