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My Unsung Hero: An unknown navigator

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Time now for My Unsung Hero, our series from the team at Hidden Brain. My Unsung Hero tells the stories of people whose kindness left lasting impressions on others. And today's story comes from Julie Cadwallader Staub. In 2003, her husband, Warren, died of cancer at just 49 years old. And not long after his death, she decided to go visit a friend in Boston. Now, Warren had always been the navigator in this relationship, but that did not deter Julie.

JULIE CADWALLADER STAUB: I'd driven to Boston many times for my husband's chemo treatment at Dana-Farber, so I had plenty of false confidence about being able to make the trip. I arrived there fine. My friend had given me good directions. And I figured I would just do the reverse in order to get back home. I became seriously lost. I had absolutely no idea where I was. Mind you, this was in the days before GPS and cellphones were ubiquitous, and I had neither. By now, I was fighting panic.

I finally found a neighborhood gas station. I pulled up to the pump and asked the attendant, how do I get back onto 93 or the Everett Parkway or anything that would head me back north to Vermont? He looked at me blankly and said just a few words in Spanish that meant I don't speak English. I was stuck - no map. I was panicking. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't even think at all.

Then the unsung hero was the woman at the next pump. She turned to me and said, listen. It's way too complicated. Just follow me, and I'll take you there. And I followed her. And she did. And the last thing I saw was her hand out the car window waving to me and pointing to the highway sign. I was waving too, thanking her with every ounce of my being as I zipped off onto the highway and heading towards home. So to my unsung hero, I have not forgotten your kindness over all these years. And I'm so happy to send this out to you. I hope that you get to hear it.

CHANG: Julie Cadwallader Staub is a poet living in South Burlington, Vt. She now has a grandson also named Warren. You can find more stories from My Unsung Hero wherever you get your podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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