PRIME TIME: Erma Funk: Bristol's first female probation officer

Published on Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:12
Written by Bob Montgomery

The following is part of the Builders of Bristol - Millennium Edition series, brief biographies of those who made Bristol the town that it was during their time here. Eleanor Wilson wrote this in August of 2018:

Erma Mae Funk (1906-1980)

“Erma Mae Funk, 74, died at her home on Stony Hill, Whigville, on July 8, 1980 after a long illness. She was the daughter of Emil H. and Jessie (Austin) Funk. A graduate of Federal Hill (Patterson) School, Mount Holyoke College - in volunteering summers for the Bristol Family Services - and the New York School of Social Work.

“In July 1928, Judge William Malone of the city court announced the appointment of Erma Funk as Bristol’s first woman probation officer - and the youngest in the state - for the remainder of the court year term to May 1, 1929.

“In her report to the city council on Jan. 15, 1929, she had held 375 interviews, made 115 home visits and investigated 29 complaints. At this time she requested a part-time stenographer to take care of the office work and some provision to be made for juvenile delinquents so that they need not be kept with adult criminals in the police station. Her requests were approved by the city council. The men’s probation officer was Thomas A. Tracy when she first started and later Thomas Monahan upon the death of Mr. Tracy in 1937.

“She was appointed to the Third District Court working with Judge Thomas G. Gill in 1942. When the Juvenile Court for the State of Connecticut was established. Miss Funk was always interested in court work and welcomed the opportunity to work with the Bristol court system, which she never regretted. As a self-evaluation in a way, she said there was always something interesting going on and that it was a challenge and privilege to work in the court.

“In 1963, she ended her career of 35 years as probation officer with the Bristol and Connecticut court systems. Judge Thomas D. Gill made these statements upon her retirement: ‘Just her personality and her drive have been responsible in so many cases for assisting the young people in her charge.’ and “We know that many boys and girls are better citizens today because of the fine work Erma carried on.’

“Erma’s outgoing personality and interest in people were hallmarks in her pursuits. She was a pioneer in the establishment of the Bristol Girls Club serving as one of the 12 original incorporators. In addition, she served on the Board of Directors of the Boys Club and Bristol Youth Council.

“In 1955, Erma helped to organize a child guidance program which grew into what was known as Wheeler Affiliates (now Wheeler Clinic). Her great concern about health services for grammar school children and senior citizens led to the formation of the Burlington Visiting Nurse Association.

“One of her favorite pastimes was skiing and as an avid dog lover, she judged and bred Great Danes for many years. Active in several organizations in Burlington and Bristol, particularly the Bristol Garden Club, her beautiful garden featured first prize roses in addition to blueberries, raspberries and currants.

“A feature article in the Bristol Press (Aug. 14, 1975) stated that she had a lovely figure and complexion. She attributed this fact to a proper diet, exercise and abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes. Her life was modeled by the philosophy of doing for others.

“She was unique because she had accomplished so very much without seeking praise. Her charming personality, zest and fervor exemplified compassion, honesty and sincerity, all qualities which are rarely found.

“Miss Funk was survived by a brother, Augustus G. Funk of Bristol, two nieces, Greta F. Newman of London, England and Sandra Grady of Manchester; a nephew, Peter Grady of Bristol; and several great nieces and nephews. Her funeral was held from Funk Funeral Home with the Rev. Robert Fichter, pastor of Burlington Congregational Church officiating. Burial was in West Cemetery in Bristol.”

Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News on Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:12. Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2019 20:14.