It had been decades since their paths had crossed.
Decades since the Good Samaritan had helped the couple to safety after their vehicle had veered off the road during a heavy snowfall.
Decades since they had parted ways – exchanging thanks and a ‘you're welcome,’ but never exchanging names.
Decades since they had ever seen one another again.
Or so they thought.
Because, it turns out, they were actually seeing each other on an almost daily basis.
Only no one knew.
It wasn’t until just recently that one of them connected the dots that no one knew were waiting to be connected.
The story begins nearly 30 years ago.
Yarmouth County resident Glen Surette was driving home on Highway 101 in a bad snowstorm. He noticed a set of tire tracks leading off the highway. He kept driving but he couldn’t take his mind off those tracks. He figured the tracks must be fresh, otherwise they would have filled in with snow.
So he turned around and went back. He parked his vehicle, got out and started following the tracks, trudging his way through the deep snow.
Gerry and Anita Goodwin are forever grateful he did.
The Yarmouth County couple – who next month will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary – were on their way home after dropping off their daughter at the ferry terminal in Digby. Somewhere between Meteghan and Salmon River they had lost control of their van, skidding off the road into a very deep embankment and ditch. They kept the vehicle running to keep warm, but no one could see them from the road.
The thought did cross their mind to try to flag down a vehicle. But Gerry had mobility and disability issues that meant he couldn’t walk out on his own, so Anita would have had to make the trek up the embankment in the deep, wet, slippery snow herself. She attempted it, but very quickly discovered it was virtually impossible.
WHAT WOULD THEY DO?
Fortunately, the vehicle had stayed right-side-up and they hadn’t been injured. But that’s about all the couple had going for them.
It was snowing hard. It was cold. There were no cellphones back then to call for help, no one could see their vehicle and because of the weather there was very little traffic anyway.
But it turned out they did have one other thing going for them, and that was Glen Surette.
He found the stranded couple and managed to get them back up to safety to his vehicle. Glen and Anita had to crawl parts of the way, while Glen was also dragging Gerry to safety.
Afterwards he drove the couple home. The trio never told each other their names. And while Glen had a vague idea of where he had dropped the couple off, he was never completely sure.
And so that was that.
End of story.
Except that it isn’t.
Because just like happenstance had put Glen Surette on that snowy highway some 30 years ago, a recent drive of another sort with his wife Mary on the Gavel Road in Yarmouth County led to an interesting realization.
In one of those deja-vu, ‘wait-a-minute,’ moments, Glen realized the surroundings were very familiar.
And then suddenly something clicked.
Glen, who is the maintenance director at Villa St. Joseph du Lac – a seniors’ long-term care facility in Dayton, Yarmouth County – thought about a couple that lives at the Villa. A couple he had seen on a nearly daily basis for the past few years. A couple that previously lived in the area that Glen and his wife were now driving through.
“I said, 'holy smokes, I think that’s who is it,'” Glen says he told his wife. “They live where I’m working!”
Back at the Villa, Anita and Gerry were asked if they had been in an accident on Highway 101 decades ago. Not only was their answer yes, but their memories were so vivid it was as if it had happened just yesterday.
You can only imagine how surprised Glen, Anita and Gerry were to discover they had actually met decades earlier under a most unusual, and fortunate, set of circumstances.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Anita Goodwin says when they found out who Glen Surette actually was. “I went up to Glen and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ I was so excited to meet him again.”
WHAT A COINCIDENCE
Anita had moved into the Villa about three years ago and before Gerry moved in this past November, he came by almost every day to visit his wife. Gerry and Glen would pass each in the hallway a lot. They would nod. Smile. Say hello. But never thought anything more of it.
Gerry still can’t help but think about how lucky he and his wife were decades ago. He says given how deep the embankment was – he figures they were almost 20 feet down – they were lucky their vehicle hadn’t rolled.
Plus, if Glen hadn’t turned back, it’s doubtful anyone else would have seen their tire tracks.
“The tracks were going to get filled quick because it was snowing hard,” Glen says.
They Goodwins figure it was probably about 10 minutes after their accident that Glen came along. They were relieved they didn't have to wait longer for help.
“I remember climbing out of the van and I hit ice-cold water,” Anita says.
“Just getting up the embankment was difficult,” Glen recalls. “I couldn’t carry them because I would have wiped out and we would have all been in a mess.”
The day after the accident Gerry went back to the scene with his brothers. A tow truck pulled his vehicle out and Gerry drove it home.
“I didn’t go back,” laughs Anita. One adventure had been enough for her.
“After surviving that I believe in God,” says Gerry now, reflecting on the day of the accident, and also on the reunion with their guardian angel Glen all these decades later.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Anita says when they found out who Glen actually was. “I went up to Glen and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ I was so excited to meet him again.”
Sitting in a wheelchair now, she looks up at Glen and adds, laughing, “but I don’t remember him being 10 feet tall.”