58-year-old woman makes history as oldest graduate of Roanoke County jail academy

New sheriff's deputy proves age is just a number

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – At 58 years old, Terry Allen knows that life sometimes gets in the way. That never stopped her from following her dream.

Over the years, through all her moves and career changes, Allen's dream of working in law enforcement never faded, but it took a backseat.

"I would always put everybody first," Allen said.

That is, until Thursday, when the Buchanan resident proved that age is just a number. Joined by her family and friends, Allen graduated from the Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy's basic jailer training program.

"Law enforcement's been in my family," Allen said. "I never dreamed when I put my age down that they'd call me and they did."

A couple of years ago, Allen finally earned her college degree and applied for a position with the Roanoke County Sheriff's Office. Fast-forward 10 weeks, and Allen has beaten the odds.

Assistant Academy Director Sgt. Jonathan Price said the training is both mentally and physically exhausting, but "Mee-Maw" -- as Allen was affectionately nicknamed by her fellow recruits -- toughed it out.

"We have 20 year olds complaining about being sore. I said, 'You're almost three times their age. Are you OK with that?' And she's like, "I'll give it all I have.' And from day one, that's all she's done, give it all she had," said Sgt. Price, the academy jail group's assistant director.

Allen's family and friends traveled from all over the country to cheer her on.

"The fact that she's a woman of a certain age and what she went through, she's a dynamo," said Dawna McCracken, Allen's cousin.

"I'm really, really proud of her. You know, she's accomplished what she's always wanted to do," said John Manspile, Allen's boyfriend.

Allen also made history in Roanoke County.

"She's the oldest we've have graduate from our jail academy ever," Price said.

"Finally being able to obtain a goal, and that's what people should do," Allen said. "Age is a number and if you want to do it, do it because you may not have tomorrow to do it."

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