Good samaritan saves Arkansas woman from unknown fate during region-wide journey

HARTSELLE, Ala. -- It's a family's worst nightmare. An aging loved one takes the keys and drives off without anyone knowing they left. But a good samaritan who changes the course of fate is a dream come true.

Kelley Cooper lives in Hartselle, the City of Southern Hospitality, and welcomes people with open arms.

"If it was my family, I'd want somebody to do the same thing," Cooper said.

Cooper is a nurse and feels called to help others. This inherent duty became apparent after Wednesday night. Cooper's path crossed with 83-year-old Mary Vadney at the Jet Pep gas station.

"She had no clothes, no food. She didn't know where she was at, didn't know how she got here," Cooper said.

Vadney took off from her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas several days ago on a road trip with no destination in mind. "I just stopped spur of the moment," Vadney explained.

"She was feeling lonely, her friend went on a road trip, so she said, 'guess what, I'm going on a road trip,'" Robert Lafort, Vadney's nephew, said.

Vadney's family says she isn't diagnosed with dementia. Yet, they don't know why she ended up in Hartselle.

"I can't believe this is happening," Vadney said.

Some call Cooper and Vadney's meeting a coincidence, but they say it's deeper than that.

"By the Grace of God, it's timing," Cooper expressed. "We were at the right place at the right time."

Cooper said she couldn't leave Vadney at the gas station. She knew the woman needed help. Cooper says she didn't have a phone, a map, clothes, nor food.

"We called Domino's, ordered her a pizza, fed her, went and bought her some clothes," Cooper said.

Vadney ate and bathed in the comfort of a motel room at the Express Inn on Highway 31 while she waited for her family to make the overnight trip from Arkansas to Alabama. Hartselle Police, the motel owners and Cooper ensured her safety and comfort.

"I had such a peace of mind when I knew what they did for her," Lafort said. "She was in good hands, good hands in the people of Alabama."

Cooper, Lafort and Vadney's new-found friendship began by the grace of God. As the family heads west to Jacksonville, Cooper has one simple request: pray it forward.

"All I ask for is pray for my son that's in the military, and all the military," Cooper said.

Cooper said she doesn't want credit for being a good samaritan, just to serve as an example. She hopes to show everyone the importance of paying attention to the people around you. If something doesn't feel right, don't ignore it.