Storm clouds have been hovering over John Pauley’s life for some time. With his wife having undergone multiple surgeries and possibly facing open-heart surgery, Pauley said things were not looking so great Saturday when he went to work.
But something remarkable happened that showed him good things still occur.
Pauley helped a missing 71-year-old Alzheimer’s patient be reunited with his family in the Valley.
On Saturday morning, Wendell Workman went missing from a home near Eighth Avenue and Country Club Drive in Phoenix. Workman’s family contacted police and put a missing person alert out for his whereabouts, but there were few clues to go on.
When Workman drove into Payson Care Center’s parking lot Saturday afternoon in a red Chevy Malibu, it had been just another workday for Pauley.
Pauley was standing near his landscaping truck and trailer when Workman approached and introduced himself.
Workman explained he was looking for his five sons, who had reportedly left him in a park a day earlier, Pauley said.
Concerned for his safety, Pauley tried to find out more about Workman’s family.
At first, due to a heavy accent, he thought Workman said his name was “Wortman.”
“I thought this is great, I could help him,” he said. Wortman is a name shared in his wife’s side of the family.
Pauley called his wife’s cousin and had him speak with Workman. However, it became clear the cousin knew none of his family because “he was actually looking for Workman,” Pauley said.
Workman said he had been at a park with his sons, when they up and left him.
When Pauley asked what park he was at, Workman said he thought it was in Texas.
When Workman started repeating things and changing other parts of his story, Pauley knew something was not right.
“I said ‘let’s go inside and get a phone book’ because I thought maybe they (his family) lived in town here,” he said.
Pauley also called the local police. While they waited for officers to arrive, Pauley learned Workman used to be a coal miner and had family in Ohio. Pauley’s parents were also from Ohio, so they reminisced about the area.
At some point, Workman took out his wallet and tried to give Pauley a large sum of money. “I told him ‘No’ and to put it away because ‘I am here to help, not to get your money,’” he said.
After talking for nearly 90 minutes, Pauley said he developed a bond with Workman and that he thought God had sent him his way to help.
“I just felt a real connection to help him find his family,” he said. “When I asked him ‘Where are you going to go?’ if you can’t find them, he said he would go to Michigan.”
Luckily, before leaving Payson, Workman had stopped at Payson Care Center. “He said he thought it looked like a good place to get help.”
When a Payson police officer arrived, he ran Workman’s name and it came back with a missing/endangered alert, Pauley said.
Later, Pauley learned Workman lives in the Valley with one of his sons.
It wasn’t the first time Workman had gone missing. In December 2010, Workman left his home without telling anyone where he was going. He was later found by the Ft. McDowell Police Department along the side of the road.
Helping Workman get home felt great, said Pauley.
“It happened at the right time for me,” he said. “It was real uplifting to help someone.”
In Pauley’s life, things have not been going so well.
“We have been having a hard time here,” he said. Pauley’s wife Shawna has undergone several surgeries, one from an infection that developed after a back surgery, another to remove her gallbladder and most recently a blood clot in her heart that may require open-heart surgery.
Pauley himself has also had back surgery.
In all between them, there have been six surgeries in the last five years.
“So there have been lots of ups and downs,” he said. “We have had a lot of bad luck.”
Helping Workman, however, has given Pauley new strength in his faith.