A report of a missing fiberglass bell led five Floyd County police officers to spend their day off Wednesday clearing the yard of an elderly woman on Billy Pyle Road.
“Every one of them was just precious,” said Shirley Patterson, who still wears a cast from a broken hip this summer and is recovering from a recent heart attack.
“I’m used to cleaning up my house and doing things inside,” she added. “But I can’t do the outside any more.”
Lt. Ron Hunton led the platoon of volunteers that included Sgt. Rusty Williams and Officers Brittany Heffelfinger, Dallas Bryant and Craig Stanfield.
Between them, they sawed up and removed a toppled tree covering much of Patterson’s side yard, hauled away the brush someone had heaped near the property line and raked all the fallen leaves to the street.
“She didn’t really have anyone else to help,” Hunton said.
The goodwill gesture was something he’d been thinking about since the weekend, when he was called to Patterson’s home about the missing bell. It had been a gift from her daughter three decades ago, from the old Taco Bell restaurant that used to stand on Shorter Avenue.
“I had that bell for 32 years and decorated it every Christmas,” Patterson said.
But when she came home from a hospital stay last week, it was gone. Hunton said he poked around the cluttered yard and found it, smashed, under a pile of brush and tree limbs that someone had dumped there.
“I talked with her for a little bit and she was upset, because she thought her yard was an eyesore for her neighbors,” he said. “I told her I’d try to find someone to fix this bell.”
He kept thinking about her situation, though, and when he told the other officers he wanted to clean up her yard, “they were more than willing to help,” he said.
After spending about three hours on the task Wednesday, they also hauled the bell away. Hunton said it won’t ever look as good as new, but they’re going to do what they can to restore it.
They left behind a far less happy, but no less treasured, holiday display: a painted plywood memorial Patterson made for her dead son, Tony Patterson.
“It’s my first Christmas without him, and it won’t be the same,” she said, smiling brightly as she wiped at a small tear.
Tony Patterson, 55, was killed in June when the ambulance bringing him to Floyd Medical Center from a nursing home in LaFayette crashed into a tree off of Martha Berry Highway.
It’s been a rough year for Shirley Patterson, but the kindness of five Floyd County officers shines for her like a star.
“I couldn’t believe someone would do that for me,” she said. “I’ve never asked anyone for anything, but God answered my prayer.”