Strangers Step in When They Notice a Man Visiting This Memorial Every Day
Most parents teach their kids about “stranger danger,” and if you watch the news every day, you probably take those lessons to heart, even as an adult. This is understandable as there certainly are dangers in the world. However, the story you’re about to read demonstrates the importance of knowing when to talk to strangers.
The sweet old man you can see in the picture above had a unique daily habit, and two strangers noticed it. Let’s meet Bud Caldwell and find out what happened when those strangers got involved in his life.
Winter in Wisconsin
Bud Caldwell lived in Wisconsin, and if you’ve ever been to this upper midwestern state, you’ll know how bitterly cold its winters are. To make matters worse, Bud’s wife of more than 50 years passed away when he was 82.
Bud and Betty Caldwell had enjoyed a long and happy life together, so her death left him in a deep state of grief. His one small consolation was a memorial that he visited every day without fail, even during the depths of winter.
Since he couldn’t have his one true love by his side anymore, Bud set about making a tribute to his late wife. He purchased a park bench in Fond Du Lac’s Lakeside Park and installed a plaque dedicating the seat to Betty.
By installing the park bench, Bud created a way to feel close to Betty. He could sit with her in the park, gaze out over the landscape, and feel as though she was, in some way, still by his side.
After creating his own special shrine for Betty, Caldwell became committed to visiting her every day, regardless of the weather. On each visit, he would bring Betty a bunch of daisies and a handful of pennies.
These offerings may sound odd. However, each one is directly connected to something that was important to them as a couple. By bringing her these token offerings, Bud is honoring the life they shared together and the things they both loved. The idea is to spark joy in his heart instead of just grief.
A Shared Love of Music
Bud and Betty loved listening to music, and like most people, they had quite a few favorite songs. However, two songs, in particular, were “their songs” – tunes that felt emblematic of their love for each other.
The first song is Jud Strunk’s “Daisy a Day,” which explains why Bud always brought daisies – he was delivering Betty her daisies a day. The second song that touched their hearts was “Pennies from Heaven,” which explains the pennies Bud always brought with him.
Rain, Hail, or Shine
True to the song, “Daisy a Day,” Bud visited Betty every day without fail. Nothing could keep him away from the park, not even the harshest Wisconsin winter day.
When the snow lay thick on the ground, Bud simply trudged through it. Over time, people started to notice this unusual habit and wonder why the old man was so dedicated to entering the park. Most people thought it was odd but then left it at that. However, two strangers decided to investigate.
Two Strangers Notice Bud
The strangers in question were Jerrod Ebert and Joe Smaltz – both employees of Lakeside Park. Their interest had been piqued for some time, but finally, on one of the coldest days of 2015, they knew it was a mystery they had to solve.
On that particular day, Ebert and Smaltz spotted Caldwell sitting in his car outside the park. He wasn’t following his usual path. Instead, he was just sitting there. The two park employees immediately sensed that something was wrong.
They stopped work and took a moment to assess the situation. Why was the old man just sitting in his car? Then the answer hit them – the snow must be too thick for him to make it through.
The two young men were both touched and impressed at the man’s unwavering dedication. Speaking to CBS News, Jerrod Ebert explained that “it took us both back a little, thinking, ‘My gosh, his devotion is that strong that he still comes when he can’t make it to the bench.’”
A New Discovery at Betty’s Memorial
Though many strangers had, in fact, noticed the old man’s daily habit, Bud had no idea that anyone ever paid him any attention. He just went about his day, visiting his wife, and bringing her the offerings that reminded him of happier times. Little did he know, a surprise was waiting for him on his next visit to Betty’s memorial.
After a particularly tough day when Bud couldn’t make it beyond the entrance of the park, he arrived to find something he never expected to see. The path to Betty’s memorial was perfectly clear of snow.
A Clear Path for Bud
Unbeknownst to Bud, the two park employees – Jerrod Ebert and Joe Smaltz – had arrived early to clear a path for him. This task was not part of their usual daily duties. Instead, they made a special exception for Bud, shoveling a path just for him.
The two men diligently cleared the snow, working from the entrance Bud used all the way to Betty’s bench. Though Bud had never met these two men, their message of kindness and support was clear.
A Path for One
The path they created led directly to Betty’s memorial. As Ebert explained to CBS News, “for most people, it’s a path to nowhere.” However, that didn’t matter because, in Ebert’s words, “it’s a path to somewhere for one person.”
Though the path wasn’t necessary for most park visitors, and though it added an extra job to their day, the two men were more than happy to oblige. Seeing Bud walk the path and sit with his wife’s memorial was all the reward they needed.
The Imperative to Help
This is a remarkable act of kindness in a world that can often feel quite harsh. However, Ebert explained that he and his colleague really didn’t feel like it was a choice they made. It was just something they knew in their hearts they had to do.
Ebert explained that, almost in unison, they declared that they had to help the man. “We just can’t have this,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure he can get to his bench and talk to his wife.”
Ebert and Smaltz knew love when they saw it, and they weren’t about to leave the man with no way to feel connected with his wife. “We did it because of his love for his wife. He truly misses her,” Ebert told CBS News.
As for Bud, he didn’t know what to think when he saw a path had been cleared. At first, he wondered whether the park had simply decided to clear all the paths. However, when he saw that the path led only to Betty’s memorial, he knew immediately that it was just for him.
The Kindness of Strangers
As you might expect, Bud was overcome with gratitude. He couldn’t believe the effort someone had gone to on his behalf – someone he’d never even met before.
“One day,” Bud recalled, “I pulled up there, and there’s the walk shoveled.” Bud couldn’t believe his eyes. “My knees about buckled on me,” he said. The strangers who helped him understood that this ritual was important to him, but they had no idea how crucial it was in his life. On many days, it was his only comfort.
The Story Doesn’t End Here
Life got pretty bleak for Bud when Betty passed. However, the memorial gave him a sense of connection with the love of his life, and it was something Bud cherished deeply. That’s why he was so touched by what the two park employees did for him.
“Two young men did such a nice thing for an old man,” Bud said, and he was right. However, the story does not end there. Far from it. Ebert and Smaltz were about to deliver an even bigger surprise.
Once they understood the sentiments underlying Bud’s devotion to visiting Betty’s memorial, they committed to showing the same level of devotion. For the rest of that Wisconsin winter, they diligently shoveled the path, ensuring it was always clear for Bud.
It’s understandable for Bud to be so devoted to his wife, but for two strangers to share this level of devotion is astounding. They didn’t know Bud personally, but they didn’t need to know him to understand that helping him was the right thing to do.
We’re Here to Help Each Other
According to Ebert, he and Shmaltz “were just doing what we felt was our job.” He explained that, in his mind, “Some intuition… says this is why you’re here: to help one another.”
Something about this sentiment rings true, and the beauty of it is that it’s non-denominational. Regardless of what you believe, you can always follow that inner imperative to help. Do so, and you too may one day play an important role in a touching story like this one.
Still in Love
Bud’s visits to Betty’s bench are as ritualistic as they are adorable. On every visit, he starts by saying “good morning” to her and ensuring everything is clean and in order. He then spends some time reminiscing about the life they shared and updating her on the latest happenings.
When it comes time to leave, he says goodbye to his wife and stoops to give her picture a kiss. Over time, his grief has settled into a melancholy mix of love, longing, nostalgia, and happy memories.
Reporting or Confessing
In a letter addressed to Action Reporter Media, Bud explained that he would also confess things to Betty and report back to her on anything he knew she would have wanted to know. He ensured she was completely updated on the important events of the town and the world at large.
In doing so, Bud was able to hold onto some of the habits he’d gotten so used to over the many decades they spent together. They had been together for more than 50 years. Habits become deeply ingrained over such a long stretch of time.
Pennies for Betty
Touchingly, the two park workers weren’t the only ones to notice Bud and support him in his daily ritual. Noticing that he always leaves pennies for Betty, many other park visitors followed suit.
In fact, so many people leave pennies on the Bench that Bud regularly has to collect them. Armed with a bag full of pennies, he then goes down to the local Salvation Army to donate them. In this way, Betty is still able to do good in the world.
Bud intends to keep visiting Betty for as long as he’s physically able to do so. Nothing can keep him away from his wife and their daily catch-up. With so many kind people in the area, including Ebert and Smaltz, it seems Bud will always have support in this sweet endeavor.
If more people were like Jerrod Ebert and Joe Smaltz, we imagine the world would be a much nicer place. We hope this story inspired you to engage in your own acts of service and kindness.