Disabled Cop Finds Second Career as a Gemologist

When Dan Waltman of Charlotte, N.C., was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease and forced to undergo amputation two years ago, he did not dwell on what he would be giving up: his career, his income, his leg. “You have to play with the cards you are dealt,” he says. For Waltman this meant retiring from 14 years of police work—three years at a North Carolina sheriff’s office and 11 years as a detective sergeant specializing in vice/narcotics and felony—and considering a new field: gemology.

It seems like an unexpected choice for a man whose past jobs included not only police work but also heating and air- conditioning maintenance and service in the Air Force. But, in fact, gemology merges both a lifelong curiosity and developed skill of Waltman’s. His interest in precious stones was ignited as a child. “My father and I would go through mines,” he told JCK, “looking for gems.” As an adult, Waltman enjoys creative, hands-on projects that require great attention to detail—he built the log cabin in which he; his wife, Nora; and three of the couple’s five children now live. “Once I knew I had to stop police work, I really didn’t consider doing anything else [but gems],” he says.

The Gemological Institute of America gave Waltman a full scholarship, and he enrolled in a distance-education course, perfect for a man with mobility challenges (though his new prosthetic leg is helpful). His goal is to obtain his G.G. and then a Jewelry Business Management diploma, after which he is unsure of which occupation he will pursue.

“A buyer would be interesting; I like to travel,” he told JCK. “Or else combine my work as an investigative detective [with my jewelry interests],” perhaps consulting with stores on how to better protect their goods from theft. Whatever he pursues, it will undoubtedly be with his typical enthusiasm and determination. “I’m going to find my niche,” Waltman says.