A woman in the male-dominated bail bonds business in 1966 was very rare.
Yet, Ann L. Cook, using her skills obtained while working with insurance, established such a service in New Castle, and this year, Cook-DeNome Bail Bonds is observing its 50th anniversary.
Cook, now deceased, started the business in a building on Cascade Street. In the 1980s, a new building was constructed at 410 S. Cascade Street, and Cook-DeNome Bail Bonds has been there ever since.
Cook's son-in-law and daughter, Lou and Sandra DeNome, have been with the company for 40 years.
"My mother-in-law was a pioneer in this business," Lou DeNome said.
It's not a 9 to 5 occupation.
"We are definitely 24/7," DeNome said, adding his is one of the oldest bail bonds services in Pennsylvania.
The DeNomes are bail bonds agents, and in order to write surety bail bonds in the state, a property and casualty insurance license must be secured. Prospective agents must also pass a test and receive an appointment from a licensed surety company.
According to DeNome, his agency is able to provide more services because it is now affiliated with Bail USA in Greenville, which is one of the largest of its type in the U.S., and recently aligned themselves with Liberty Bell Bonds in Pittsburgh.
"Over 50 years, we have worked with a lot of judges and magistrates who arraign defendants and make an assessment on whether a bond is deemed appropriate depending on conditions they must evaluate," DeNome said. "We have had the opportunity to work with some of the best law enforcement agencies and judicial personnel in western Pennsylvania."
He explained that there have been many relationships established with families who found themselves in need of bail bond services.
"Bad things happen to good people," he said. "The beauty of all this is there are many success stories. Many people have never had to use our services again, and were able to return to society and to their jobs."
DeNome said that in the past 50 years, the agency has been a strong supporter of county community services that help individuals who find themselves involved with the judicial system.
"Everyone who is incarcerated is a cost to the taxpayer. By having them released, it reduces jail costs and releases the burden on the taxpayer. That's a value to Lawrence County in terms of cost and a value to the court system and agencies who use our services."
It's an important service that is being provided, he noted.
"This business requires a high degree of professionalism."