Pennsylvania man, 89, lost on journey to save, ends up in Alabama

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban Philadelphia man whose weekend trip to a neighborhood store, or in any way led to a 900 km detour to Alabama is safely back with his family, thanks to breakfast with the police officers who realized that there was something wrong.

Haleyville, Alabama, Mayor Ken Sunseri said Thursday that the 89-year-old Jody Tarbutton, of Boothwyn, Pa., approached the officers at a restaurant on Monday and asked them where he was.

“They said, ‘You’re in Alabama, Haleyville, Alabama,'” Sunseri said. “And it kind of stunned him.”

The agents took him to the police station and went with his driver’s license, discovering that he had been missing for two days. They contacted authorities, informed of his family and got him medical attention.

“We have never, never, never, never expected to hear the news that he was in Alabama,” his daughter Cindy Gatta said by phone on Thursday evening. She had contacted the police in Pennsylvania and wrote a plea on Facebook on Sunday in an attempt to find her father.

Gatta, of Wilmington, Del., flew down to Alabama and reunited with him in a hospital, where he was treated for high blood pressure and dehydration. She said that her father has never clinically diagnosed with dementia and wrote his unexpected road trip to old age and forgetfulness.

“It’s just been amazing that it was all so good,” Gatta said.

The officials are not sure what the route Tarbutton took, but he would almost certainly have been driving through severe weather, Sunseri said. The police found a child-size drink and two hamburgers in Tarbutton the pick-up truck.

People in Haleyville helped Tarbutton, the children get to and from the airport in Birmingham to the hospital, and are now working with the family to have Tarbutton the truck is delivered back to his home.

Sunseri said he was “particularly proud” of the response of the officers and the broader community.

“They were a huge help for the family,” the mayor said.

Tarbutton’s daughter said she is also grateful for the officers and others, and calls her father safe return of nothing less than “a Christmas miracle.”

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