It doesn’t usually make the news, but cops–who, public school employees aside, interact with the public more than any other arms of government–do it all the time: they lend a hand, go beyond the call of duty, sometimes displaying acts of kindness people would expect from a friend or a relative, but not necessarily from a cop. It doesn’t make the news because most public servants don’t usually brag about their own Samaritan acts.
Nor did Erik Pedersen, a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy since 2006.
But Ann Parker, a 94-year-old resident of Berry Bush Street in Daytona North, also known as the Mondex, wouldn’t let him get away with obscurity after what he did for her last month.
Pedersen was on patrol on Jan. 24 when dispatch sent him to do what’s called a welfare check–that is, to go knock on someone’s door and make sure that person is OK. Deputies are sent on such checks daily by friends or relatives of individuals who have not, for one reason or another, given signs of life in a while. In this case, dispatch got a call from Kathy LeBlanc, who was worried about Parker. She hadn’t heard from her in a while. Nor had Parker’s son and daughter-in-law.
Deputies fear the worst when making such welfare checks. But Parker turned out to be fine. The problem was Parker’s phone. It was broken, and Parker, who lives with her disabled 77-year-old son, was unable to leave the house to get a new phone.
Pedersen had Parker call LeBlanc on his personal cell phone to reassure her, then decided to go to a hardware store and buy her a new phone. “Although I had checked on Mrs. Parker and verified that she was okay, I couldn’t leave her without a way to call for help if she needed it,” he said, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office issued Monday. “I went to ACE Hardware in Bunnell and purchased the only phone they had for sale and took it to her.”
Pederson paid for the phone and would not take Parker’s money as reimbursement. The story might have ended there had Parker not written a commendation letter about Pedersen.
“It was with extreme pleasure that I had the opportunity to meet one of your fine officers,” Parker wrote by hand in a script evocative of the days, so distant now, when students were taught to write in cursive, coherently and elegantly. “He knew I had no connection to the outside world,” she continued. “He is a wonderful young man, courteous, and kind. He left and returned with a telephone and hooked it up for me. He would not take reimbursement. It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone so kind and thoughtful.”
The letter went to the sheriff’s office, alerting Pederson’s supervisors.
It’s not an unusual sort of alert as far as Pedersen is concerned. The sheriff’s office veteran, who is working toward a master’s in psychology, three and a half years ago made news when he helped a 28-year-old woman deliver her baby, three weeks before the baby was due. The birth took the woman by surprise, and Pedersen, who was patrolling in the area, responded to the 911 call and went to work, ensuring that the baby’s color went from blue to pink. He proved as adept with a newborn then as he was with a nonagenarian.
“Deputy Pedersen is an outstanding law enforcement officer who went above and beyond to help a citizen and now a friend,” Sheriff Jim Manfre said in the release.