A quiet and sincere ‘Thank you’

Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

Phyllis Roberts wells up with tears every time she talks about “those neat guys” at the Mercer Island Fire Department. The Island senior is grateful for all those who help her — from her good friends at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church to her visiting nurses. Yet, earlier this month, the Mercer Island Fire Department moved Roberts with an act of kindness so deeply appreciated that she still cannot find a way to thank them.

“I think most people don’t realize what those firemen do for us until we need them,” said the long-time Islander.

On April 10, Roberts collapsed in her living room and dialed 911. The fire department was at her house within minutes. With great care and compassion — like the two times they had helped her before — “those boys” made sure Roberts was safely transported by ambulance to Overlake Hospital for a medical exam and MRI.

Yet somewhere between Roberts’ house and the emergency room, her cane went missing. Neither the firefighters nor the medics at Overlake Hospital were able to find it. Returning home without her walking aid, Roberts despaired at the loss of it.

“What was I supposed to do? I tried using my [late] husband’s cane, but he was 6’2”, and I’m shrinking to five feet,” she said.

Five days later, the fire department’s administrative assistant, Joleen Judd, showed up at Roberts’ doorstep with a brand new, burgundy-red cane purchased by the department. The senior was at a loss for words of gratitude.

“I get choked up just talking about it,” she said. “I just want to thank those boys so much for what they did. I offered to pay them for the cane, but they wouldn’t let me. Everybody chipped in. And that lovely Joleen, she was the one who tried to find my cane and instigated them chipping in for a new one.”

Roberts is a sprightly woman with both a sense of humor and gratitude. And she’s determined. Without fail, she was going to find her own way to thank the fire department.

“It was during that week — Seeds of Compassion,” Roberts said, referring to the Dalai Lama’s April visit to Seattle. “I thought — how can I thank them?”

And then she came up with an idea. Calling the Reporter for help, Roberts asked if a journalist and photographer could help her compose a public statement of thanks to the firefighters who helped her.

“I don’t want any attention. I just want to thank those boys from the bottom of my heart for this lovely cane,” she said, showing off the way it shimmers red in the sun.

It’s easy to forget, she said, how much the firefighters do for the Island — their constant service and dedication.

“They’re always there, 24/7, ready to help,” Roberts said. “I just want to ask that people show appreciation for what they do. Give them a honk when you see them or a thumbs-up, or just stop by the station and say, ‘Thank you.’”

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