WATERVILLE — When Cathy Landry looked in her pocketbook Tuesday afternoon and saw her money was gone, she panicked.

The $1,500 cash she had placed there in a bank bag was meant to pay for her rent, a brake job on her car, eye doctor and dentist bills, gas, food groceries and other necessities.

“That was my check. It’s all I had to live on,” Landry said Wednesday from her Louise Avenue apartment building, which is operated by the Waterville Housing Authority. “I tore this place apart last night. I didn’t sleep at all. I just freaked. I figured it was gone.”

Landry, 57, was frantic, trying to figure out how she had lost the money.

“I had a new pocketbook and it had three compartments. Apparently, one of them wasn’t zippered all the way.”

What Landry didn’t know is that while she was searching for the money Tuesday afternoon, Mark Isbell, a maintenance mechanic for the Waterville Housing Authority, found it in the parking lot of her building and gave it to his boss, maintenance supervisor Greg Wilson.

Wilson took it to the Waterville Police Department about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Deputy Police Chief Charles Rumsey said that in addition to the $1,500 in cash, the money bag contained a couple of deposit slips for Kennebec Savings Bank and a receipt from Bull Moose Music.

Police Officer Damon Lefferts visited Bull Moose, at Elm Plaza, and then Kennebec Savings Bank on Main Street.

Rumsey said while Lefferts was at the bank, he and bank workers tried to call the bag’s owner but couldn’t reach her.

“But then, after Officer Lefferts left the bank, he was flagged down by a woman in the road,” Rumsey said.

That woman was Landry, who had gone to the bank Wednesday to see if, by chance, anyone had turned the money in and got the good news it had been found.

Coincidentally, five years ago Landry found a money bag lying on the ground outside Kennebec Savings that contained more than $5,000, which she immediately turned in to the bank.

On Wednesday, after Lefferts left the bank, Landry caught up with him and gave him a hug.

“I could not believe it,” she said. “I was so grateful. The policeman was so nice. The Police Department is wonderful in Waterville, and the workers here (at Waterville Housing Authority) are great guys.”

One worker she had not met was Isbell, but that changed Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon, Isbell, 42, was getting into his truck after shampooing carpets in the apartment building when he saw the money bag on the pavement. Unable to find a name inside, he gave it to Wilson, who took it to the Police Department.

“I just happened to see it there when I was leaving,” Isbell said. “It was right by the big snowbank.”

As he told his story Wednesday in the lobby of the apartment building, Landry walked in and immediately gave him a hug.

“This is for you,” she said, handing him $50. “I’m so grateful. I’m so lucky.”

Isbell seemed surprised by the attention.

“I’d want the same done for me if I lost it,” he said.

Landry told him how five years ago she found and turned in the money bag containing $5,000. She surmised that Isbell returning her money to her was “paying it forward.”

“See, something good will happen to you,” she told him.

Isbell said he doesn’t like being the center of attention; but his co-worker, Gerard Poulin, who was listening to the conversation, said Isbell deserves the praise.

“We’re very proud of Mark,” he said.

Their boss, director of facilities, Wayne Rossignol, is too. He said Isbell has worked for the Waterville Housing Authority only six months and has shown himself to be a hard worker. Isbell is the son of Donald Isbell, a longtime City Hall custodian who died in 2006 shortly before his planned retirement.

“He’s been doing a real good job,” Rossignol said. “Our men are pretty much trusted. He’s a new employee. He progressed faster than we expected.

He said that Isbell’s action Tuesday “is going to help him out even more.”

Meanwhile, Rumsey, who has not met Isbell, said what he did was “wonderful and noble.”

“By his doing so, we were able to conduct our investigation and make sure the money was returned to its owner,” Rumsey said. “It’s a nice story and we’re glad it turned out the way that it did.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com Twitter: @AmyCalder17