MONMOUTH — He’s never seen her face, never heard her voice. He doesn’t know her name.
But Leonard Crocker believes he just might owe his life to the woman, the one who knelt over him in the road, doing who knows what, to help keep Crocker alive until the ambulance came. He’s anxious to express his gratitude, but how do you say thanks to someone who vanished as quickly as she appeared?
“She walked to her vehicle and drove away, never to be seen again,” said Herb Whitier, Crocker’s boss at Monmouth Public Works. “They’d love to say âthank you,’ but to who?”
Crocker’s life crossed paths with the woman the afternoon of March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, moments after he suffered a significant heart attack. Crocker’s crew had just finished cutting trees along Macomber Road and loading the last of the tools into a truck when he headed around to the passenger’s side to climb into the cab. Moments later, co-workers found Crocker lying unconscious on the ground.
“Leonard went to get in the truck and the driver was waiting for him,” Whittier said. “He never got in the truck.”
Crocker, a lithe 61-year-old who has worked for Monmouth Public Works for the past five years, is a stickler about his health. He gets regular checkups and is meticulous about his diet because he has diabetes. He’d never had any signs of heart trouble, so that was the last thing on his co-workers’ minds when they saw their friend on the ground.
“The boys thought he was having a diabetic episode,” co-worker Bruce Balfour said. That’s what town officials told Crocker’s wife of 30 years, Cathy, when they called to let her know her husband was on the way to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She continued to believe it was diabetes-connected on the drive from her Winthrop workplace to Lewiston, which she said helped keep her calm. She learned the truth when she got to the hospital.
“They told me it was a heart attack and it was serious,” she said.
The events are a blur to Leonard. He recalls walking around the truck, but after that all he remembers is “reaching for the door handle and spillin’ and then seeing my feet come in the ambulance door.”
The mystery woman made her appearance somewhere between the door handle and ambulance. Whittier, who arrived shortly after Leonard Crocker went down, said the woman was with her boyfriend in a red Ford Mustang. They had just come from the Hannaford supermarket in Winthrop. The woman told Crocker’s co-workers, who knelt around their friend with her, that she nearly had completed classes to become a registered nurse. Whittier is unsure of all the woman did for Crocker but said she monitored his heart and breathing with a stethoscope. The woman got back into the car and left when Winthrop Ambulance Service arrived.
It turns out that the woman’s aid was just one of the wondrous events that converged to save Crocker’s life. John Dovinsky, Winthrop Ambulance’s chief, lives less than a mile away and rushed to the scene when he heard the call for help on the radio. A Winthrop Ambulance crew was training on Sanborn road, less than two miles away, when that call came.
“This is really a miracle thing,” Whittier said.
Cathy Crocker shuddered at the thought of what would have happened if her husband had been alone, if the mystery woman hadn’t just been passing by, or if the ambulance had not been so close.
“It’s amazing it all happened at once,” she said. “He was in the right place at the right time. That’s why he’s here today. If any of those things hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t be here.”
At the hospital, Leonard Crocker had an emergency procedure to open five clogged arteries. He was fitted with a pacemaker when his heart stopped beating three times.
“The doctor said, âYou scared the hell out of us,'” Crocker said, smiling.
The attacks left him with significant heart damage. It’s unclear how much it will improve. Crocker, who said he feels a little better every day, is shooting for an eventual return to the public works crew.
“I’m not one to lay around,” he said. “Herb’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.”
Crocker said he has done a lot of thinking about his life since it was nearly taken away from him. He remembers a vision that came when his heart stopped beating. It was dark below, and above there was a window with colors.
“I don’t know if that was a dream,” he said. “It’s just weird. Maybe that’s what it’s like when you pass.”
Whatever the vision was, what Crocker knows for certain is that he is not ready to leave this world behind forever. He and his wife have two grown children and a 5-year-old grandson, Ace Globensky, who consumes much of their time, not to mention their hearts.
“Our grandson is what we live for, really,” Cathy Crocker said.
She, like his coworkers, is thankful that her husband will go on living that life. All hope to express that thanks to the woman who stopped to help, but so far her identity remains a mystery.
Whittier and his crew speculate that the woman might live in East Monmouth, based on her route home from the grocery store; but that’s little more than a guess. The men continue to keep their eyes open for a red Mustang wherever they go about town. Leonard Crocker said the car is visible in video taken by a camera mounted on the Monmouth police cruiser that arrived the day of his attack, but the license plate never is in view.
“That’s mysterious, too,” Crocker said. “It adds to the drama.”
He hopes the end of this tale, like any good mystery, reveals all the answers. He hopes to shake the woman’s hand and look her in the eye, something he was unable to do the only other time they met.
“I want to thank her for what she did,” Crocker said. “She could have saved my life or she could have saved further heart damage.”
Whittier asked that anyone with information about the good Samaritan call Monmouth Public Works at 933-2650.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 [email protected] Twitter: @CraigCrosby4