The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 28, 2013

40 search 3 hours, locate 77-year-old

WASHINGTONVILLE — Anthony Township resident Dick Hess is grateful for the 40-plus volunteers who searched three hours Monday night until his wife, an Alzheimer’s disease patient, was found after leaving home wearing a light sweater.

“They came out in the cold and I want to thank them for their efforts and the sacrifice they made,” Hess said Friday afternoon.

His 77-year-old wife, Fay, was reported missing at 6:30 p.m. Monday after she walked out of their house and into 38-degree temperatures and winds gusting to 20 mph.

When Hess, a former township supervisor, couldn’t find her, he called 911.

Fire companies, a Danville ambulance, a helicopter with a search light, tracking dogs and neighbors arrived. The volunteers asked him to stay in his house to provide additional information, such as Fay’s pillow case, which was used by STRIKE K-9 dogs for a scent.

“There were 30 to 40 vehicles out here,” Hess said of those people who heard about and responded to the search.

“I had a call from people who live five miles away, saying they saw the helicopter with a spotlight,” Hess said. “The woman heard it on the scanner and her son went out looking.”

Paula Davis and her family, from Exchange, found Fay Hess around 9:30 p.m. Davis was driving her mother-in-law home and saw emergency lights and spotlights in Exchange.

“I asked my husband’s brother and he said he heard a woman in white about 5 foot 4 wandered away from home,” Davis said. “I thought it has to be Fay.”

She, daughter Carlene, son Michael and husband, Joe, started driving around and calling Fay’s name.

“I said a little prayer,” Davis said as they drove by the Montour Preserve maintenance building. “My son’s spotlight showed her in the bushes. She got up, stood beside the building and started moving. We all jumped out of the vehicle and my daughter hollered ‘Fay. It’s Paula.’ I walked up to her and she stopped.

“I asked her if she was cold and if she would come with me, I’d put her in my car and she could warm up,” Davis said. “My daughter put a coat on her.”

Joe Davis called 911 and an ambulance arrived.

“(Fay Hess) looked at the helicopter lights and said, ‘I think they’ve been looking for me,”’ Davis said.

“They’re such sweet people. I wasn’t leaving until we found her. It was a Christmas miracle.”

Said Dick Hess: “Fay knows (Davis) since she works at the bank in Turbotville.”

Volunteers figured Fay Hess walked along Preserve Road to the Montour Preserve Visitors Center and back across the road to the maintenance area,  a distance of at least two miles. The maintenance area is within sight of his home, Dick Hess said.

Dogs were able to track Fay Hess to Preserve Road and the visitors center. The call came in that Fay Hess was found when the dogs were at the visitors center.

An ambulance took Fay Hess to Geisinger Medical Center’s emergency department, where she was examined and released about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

On Friday morning, Montour County Deputy Sheriff Shane Craig took a Project Lifesaver transmitter to the Hess home and placed the device, which is about the size of a watch, on Fay Hess’ arm.

“If someone gets lost, we can track them,” Craig said. “The transmitter sends a signal and we have a receiver that can pick up the frequency and narrow in on where the person is.”

The transmitter is available through the Montour County sheriff’s office.

Danville, Mahoning Township and Riverside police, and sheriff’s office personnel, are trained in the use of the system.

The first year of using the device is free with a small charge in subsquent years.

“We only had one guy on it before we put the one on Mrs. Hess,” Craig said of the program that’s been in effect for about three years.

Davis and Washingtonville Fire Chief Gary Roberts were among those who stopped by or called the next day to see how Fay Hess was, her husband said.

“A neighbor and his son stopped the next morning with Christmas cookies,” Dick Hess said. “The outpouring was amazing. It was some night.”

Craig, a member of Mahoning Township’s East End Fire Company, was also among those searching for Fay Hess. Also responding were fire companies from Washingtonville, Danville and Warrior Run.


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