OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — An Overland Park grandmother has quite a story to tell. She once lived where notorious gangsters, drug kingpins and murderers served time: Alcatraz Island. Darlyne Sheppeard, a resident of Tallgrass Creek, spent some of her teenage years on the infamous prison island many years ago. And this week, Sheppeard revisited Alcatraz for a special reunion.
Sit and talk with this mother of four, grandmother of 16 and you’ll enjoy a unique tour that takes you back to the infamous, federal penitentiary.
“We didn’t see the inmates there except from a distance,” Sheppeard said.
As a child Sheppeard grew up in Leavenworth, Kan. Her father, Nova Stucker, was a guard at the Leavenworth prison before he transferred to Alcatraz in 1949 to work as an associate warden.
Darlyne lived on the Alcatraz Island with her sister and parents.
“They didn’t allow females in the prison at all. The first time I was in the prison was when it opened as a park.”
One of her funniest moments was when she and other so-called “Alcatraz kids” would sneak outside at night to visit friends on the other side of the island.
“We learned to take a bobby-pin, spring it and unlock the padlock so that we could get up there,” she said. “Surely they knew you know, but nobody ever said anything.”
As for those Hollywood movies about “The Rock,” she said don’t believe all of them.
“Like Robert Stroud, the birdman of Alcatraz, never treated birds at Alcatraz, but it made a better story than in Leavenworth,” she said.
At the annual “Alcatraz Reunion” she said it was good to see old friends, prison guards and even former inmates.
“Why do you keep going back? Oh, to see the people I knew primarily and its fun and I take my kids,” she said.
The prison closed in 1963 and has since become a popular park and tourist attraction. Darlyne said she plans to attend the 80th Alcatraz reunion next year..