GLENBURN, Maine — Seven hours after an elderly New Hampshire man was reported missing by his family, he was found at the Village Variety store by alert store employees.
James Marshall, 79, left his Goffstown, N.H., home early Saturday and somehow made his way 245 miles north to Glenburn, said Maine State Police Trooper Chris Cookson.
“My understanding is he went out to get the mail and got into his car and left,” the trooper said Monday.
His worried family reported him missing several hours later, at around 3 p.m., when he hadn’t returned home, Cookson said.
The septuagenarian arrived at the store minutes after employee Steven Lamarche locked the front doors at about 10 p.m. Store clerk Jo-Ellen Jamieson figured he needed gas and offered to leave the pumps on, and when Marshall seemed confused, she went out to assist him.
He was on the wrong side of the pumps, so she asked him to move his car to the other side. Instead, he pulled up to the front of the store. He also was fiddling with the car’s controls and the seven-year veteran store clerk became concerned.
“All the signs started showing up that something wasn’t right,” Jamieson said. “I had a feeling that he was lost. I thought maybe he had Alzheimer’s.”
After Jamieson wrestled with her conscience, her concern for his well-being won over and she decided to call 911.
“I had an inner battle. What gave me the right to call the cops when he did nothing wrong?” Jamieson said. “But all the signs were there, and I decided I should listen to my instincts. I knew it would be wrong to let him get back into his car.”
She gave the police dispatcher his name and license plate number and the dispatcher told her to attempt to keep him at the store until the ambulance and police arrived.
When Jamieson returned to Marshall, she recalled, “he said he wanted to just take a nap in his car. It was chilly out so I invited him inside and gave him a cup of coffee. I also gave him a muffin because who knows when the last time he ate [was]?”
After Marshall was seated at a small table with his coffee and snack, the store clerk’s worries were confirmed when “he asked me what state he was in and I said Maine. He thought he was in New Hampshire.”
She found a map and spread it over the table to show him where he was.
While waiting for help to arrive, “I wanted to find anyway to distract him,” Jamieson said. “Just anything that would keep his mind off going back out and getting into his car.”
A police dispatcher called the store to inform the two employees that Marshall had been reported missing from New Hampshire.
“It just really reconfirmed that what I was doing was the right thing,” Jamieson said. “It was more important than ever to keep in him the store, to keep him distracted.”
The ambulance arrived first, and then Cookson soon after.
“He was definitely confused and didn’t know where he was,” the trooper said. “He was disoriented.”
The Granite State resident was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, and his son from Vermont arrived early Sunday to pick him up, Cookson said.
“She did an exceptional job by reporting to police when she realized something was out of the ordinary,” he said of Jamieson.
It was a sentiment echoed by store owner Clyde Pelkey.
“I thought she did a great job,” he said. “I think they did a good job at looking at the situation and making good decisions quickly.”
Jamieson was so happy to have a story with a happy ending on Mother’s Day, she posted it on the Community section of the Bangor Daily News website on Sunday.
Her story has been picked by several online posters, who reposted it on their various sites.
The New Hampshire man may not have been clear about where he was, but Marshall was clear about one thing, Jamieson said.
“He said his wife sent him to go do something and said she was going to have a few choice words for him because he was going to be back so late,” she said.