MILO, Maine — A local police officer went beyond the call of duty last week when he opened his home to a tired, elderly New Harbor couple who ended up in Milo after spending hours trying to find their way home from Portland.
The couple, in their 90s, left their coastal home in the Boothbay region early Aug. 20 for a medical appointment in Portland. Traveling home after the appointment and some shopping, the husband, who was driving, got mixed up at the exits and landed in Alton. From Alton, the elderly man traveled to Milo, according to Cpl. Dale Clark of the Milo Police Department.
Clark, 25, found the couple, tired and confused, at 1:45 a.m. sitting in a Cadillac parked near the intersection of Elm and Main streets. He had been off-duty on Aug. 20 but had been called out to assist another officer with a suicidal person on Turner Howe Road. Clark said he noticed the Cadillac with the elderly couple inside en route to the call. When he found the couple in the same location upon his return, he stopped to check on them.
When he inquired if there was a problem, Clark recalled the male driver saying, “I’ve had enough.” Unsure what that meant, Clark asked again and the driver said he had had enough of driving. “I’ve been driving all day long,” he reportedly told Clark.
During the conversation, Clark said the man’s head would bob down as if he were falling asleep.
Clark called the Cadillac’s license plate numbers in to the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department and learned that the vehicle’s owner and his wife had been reported missing from Lincoln County. Clark said he called the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and found out the couple had gone to an eye doctor appointment in Portland but had not returned home as expected.
Asked how the couple ended up in Milo, Clark said, the driver “seemed a bit confused as to what day it was and where they had gone during the course of the day.” What he gathered from the conversation was that they had lost their way and ended up driving from about 10:30 a.m. until they arrived in Milo the next morning. Clark said the driver had not taken his usual medications, which apparently led to the confusion.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department contacted out-of-state family members who were expected to arrive around 1 p.m. the next day, according to Clark.
The elderly driver wanted to get back home that day, but Clark’s persistence got the man to agree to spend the night at a motel.
“I didn’t really feel comfortable having them drive anywhere,” Clark said. “I got them to agree to go to a motel, however there was nothing open around here within a 40-something-mile radius. We even called the Red Cross and there was nothing.”
So Clark did what he felt he had to: He offered to let the couple stay overnight at his house. “I thought it would be best rather than have them drive. I’d take them in and make them as comfortable as possible,” he said.
A bachelor whose housemate is his 21-year-old brother, Clark was apologetic to the couple that he didn’t have much food in the house other than some leftover pizza.
Clark said he left for duty at 8 a.m. Sunday and was extremely busy handling complaints, but checked in periodically to make sure the couple were OK.
“It was a challenge for sure,” he said. He said the couple’s relatives arrived about 1 p.m. and took the couple back to New Harbor.
Contacted Monday, the couple’s daughter declined to speak about the matter other than to say her father had never gotten lost before and that he was ashamed about the ordeal.
Other than a personal thank you from the couple to Clark, the incident never would have been revealed to the public had it not been mentioned during a casual conversation Clark had several days later with Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan. Gahagan, who contacted the BDN, said he was proud of Clark’s response.
“I thought it was terrific that he would go the extra mile to help those folks out,” he said Monday. “It shows what kind of a police force we do have.”
Clark said he would do it again if faced with a similar situation.
“If it were my grandparents, I would hope that someone would do everything in their power to ensure that they were safe,” he said. Their thanks were enough, he said.
“It was a very good feeling,” Clark said. “There are too many negatives; to have something positive, it really did brighten my day.”
American Red Cross spokeswoman Gretchen O’Grady said Tuesday that her agency had agreed at about 3 a.m. to put the couple into a motel but Clark of the Milo Police Department had taken the couple home by that time.
Clark said Tuesday he never was notified of that call from the Red Cross.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect time element. The couple was found at 1:45 a.m. Additionally, American Red Cross spokeswoman Gretchen O’Grady said Tuesday that her agency had agreed at about 3 a.m. to put the couple into a motel but Cpl. Dale Clark of the Milo Police Department had taken the couple home by that time. Clark said Tuesday he never was notified of that call from the Red Cross.