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Nebraska couple fights crime together

August 5, 2018

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) — Balancing a career and family is a challenge for anyone. For these couples, the career happens under the same roof.

J.J. Connelly has spent 20 years patrolling the roads for Nebraska State Patrol Troop D’s headquarters in North Platte.

Seven years ago, his wife, Tish, joined Troop D. But while J.J. is patrolling the roads, Tish stays in the office, analyzing data and statistics to help investigations.

“You should hear our pillow talk,” J.J. said.

The couple love what they do. They fill each other in on the day-to-day and share information.

J.J. turns to Tish to talk about the toughest moments in his highway career. He also works as a reconstructionist.

They work down the hall from one another. On Mondays, Tish’s day off, J.J. brings her lunch.

They deal with the pressures of working in crime with laughter.

“We have a morbid sense of humor,” Tish told The North Platte Telegraph . “Our faith and our humor is what gets us through.”

“We think everything’s funny,” said J.J.

J.J.’s father was a career-long state trooper in Sidney, and J.J. knew that he wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps. Everyone he knew growing up had a story about his dad.

J.J. met Tish at McCook Community College, in his second year and her first year. Three years later, “I gave him the ultimatum,” she said.

J.J. was preparing to move to his new home of North Platte, but Tish didn’t care.

“Wherever you go, I go,” he remembered her saying. “And this was before we were married.”

They married when they moved to town, and Tish has never worried about being a law enforcement wife.

“If something bad is going to happen, something bad is going to happen,” she said.

She also learned a lot about being a law enforcement wife from her mother in-law, she said.

In March 2016, a man who stole a car out of Brule swerved and attempted to strike J.J. on Interstate 80. In December 2017, a semitrailer truck rear-ended J.J.’s patrol car on Interstate 80.

Tish would later joke that she hadn’t paid the driver enough.

Tish was less influenced to join the State Patrol by her husband’s career, and more influenced by friends the Connellys had at the State Patrol: Greg and Nancy Vandenberg. Like the Connellys, Greg was a state trooper and traffic reconstructionist, and Nancy was a field intelligence rep.

“Talking to her, her job was cool,” Tish said. “She knew people everywhere.”

The two couples once traveled to a NASCAR race in Kansas City. They got to go into the pits and see everything up close, thanks to Nancy’s connections with Kansas City law enforcement.

“This is how much she meant to other agencies,” J.J. said.

He saw a similar amount of respect when law enforcement officers visited Nancy before she died of cancer in 2010.

Tish decided she loved her then-career at a job placement agency too much to leave. But when Nancy’s replacement had to leave shortly after for her own husband’s job transfer, Tish remembers hearing an inner voice ask how long she’d avoid her dream job.

Now, the couple mostly sticks to day shifts, and when one has to work late, it’s usually Tish. They’re home early enough to spend time with their son, Drew, 14.

“We’re lucky,” J.J. said.

“We’re very lucky,” said Tish.

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Information from: The North Platte Telegraph, http://www.nptelegraph.com

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