Good Samaritans from Warrenton come to aid

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It was an incredible journey, complete with a happy ending.

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Margaret Janecki sits with her son, Tom Janecki. Mrs. Janecki, of Melbourne, Fla., doesn't know how she ended up in Warrenton, Ga. Her daughter, Tracy Steele, says she might have been going to Okeechobee.  Morris News Service
Morris News Service
Margaret Janecki sits with her son, Tom Janecki. Mrs. Janecki, of Melbourne, Fla., doesn't know how she ended up in Warrenton, Ga. Her daughter, Tracy Steele, says she might have been going to Okeechobee.

Just after 3 p.m. Sunday, 84-year-old Margaret Janecki left her home in Melbourne, Fla., to run an errand -- and vanished.

Although no one is completely sure where she spent the next 34 hours, she ended up at a gas station in Warrenton, Ga., just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, where residents rallied to her rescue.

"Somehow she ended up on one of the major highways, and I guess she just drove all night," said her daughter Tracy Steele, who filed a missing person report with Florida authorities when she couldn't find her mother.

Exhausted, disoriented and 500 miles from home, Mrs. Janecki was standing in the parking lot of the Chevron station on Main Street in Warrenton when Lawanda Smith, an employee at the nearby TRW Foundry, drove by on her way home from work. She stopped, offered help and called 911.

On the other end of the line was another good Samaritan: dispatcher Nancy Smith of the Warren County Sheriff's Office.

After calling Mrs. Steele to let her know her mother was safe, the two Ms. Smiths, who are not related, sat up with Mrs. Janecki.

"Lawanda stayed with her until it was time to get her kids to school," Ms. Smith said. "Then, at 6 a.m., when I got off work, I brought her home with me. We washed her clothes and put her to bed."

On Tuesday, Mrs. Steele's brother and brother-in-law drove to Warrenton to take Mrs. Janecki home.

"These ladies are absolute guardian angels," Mrs. Steele said of the women who helped her mother. "Literally, they gave up their personal time, and time with their families, to help a complete stranger. It exemplifies what you think Southern hospitality would be."

Mrs. Janecki is very much a "free spirit" who enjoys lotto and casino slot machines and might have tried to drive south to one of the casinos near Okeechobee, Fla., Mrs. Steele said during a telephone interview.

She said she still doesn't know what route her mother took from central Florida to middle Georgia.

Mrs. Janecki said she doesn't know, either, although she remembers a sign mentioning Mobile, Ala., so perhaps her Ford compact was on Interstate 10 at some point.

As she prepared for the ride home Tuesday, a grateful Mrs. Janecki joked that her adventure would land her in "big trouble" with her family. Then she managed a broad smile and thanked Ms. Smith for her hospitality.

"If I ever win the lotto, I'll pay you back," she said.

Jason Smith of The McDuffie Mirror contributed to this story.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (10) Add comment
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itamazezme
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itamazezme 09/10/08 - 06:14 am
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I am so glad this story had a

I am so glad this story had a happy ending. We need more Good Samaritans!! God Bless all.

pofwe
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pofwe 09/10/08 - 06:44 am
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God Bless these folks. If

God Bless these folks. If some thugs had ran across her ... oh well they didn't.

reruns
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reruns 09/10/08 - 08:07 am
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More random acts of kindness

More random acts of kindness could turn this inhumane world around.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 09/10/08 - 08:22 am
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With all the hatred and evil

With all the hatred and evil going on in the world it is so wonderful to read such a heart warming story. God Bless these Good Samaritans! I'm so glad Mrs. Janecki was not harmed.

ASU98
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ASU98 09/10/08 - 09:04 am
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It's good to see this story

It's good to see this story made it to the paper. Those are two wonderful ladies.

karmakills123
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karmakills123 09/10/08 - 09:09 am
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So glad for the happy

So glad for the happy ending..God Bless these ladies!!

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 09/10/08 - 09:18 am
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the folks out there in

the folks out there in warrenton are really nice. a few years ago when the two toddlers went missing, even the local high school kids left their prom to help search for them. people like this set a wonderful example for others.

gvoicinganopinion
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gvoicinganopinion 09/10/08 - 10:10 am
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Nice to hear a good story....

Nice to hear a good story....

aninsider
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aninsider 09/10/08 - 11:00 am
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Having lived in Warren County

Having lived in Warren County for a long time, and being an emergency responder, I can tell you that there are a lot of good people in Warren County who really pull together whenever there is a crisis. These two ladies did an excellent job of caring for someone's lost loved one. I would hope that if anything like that ever happened to my grandmother, or to me when I am older, I should have the good fortune to find 2 ladies like these Ms. Smiths. I hope the "powers that be" in Warren County appreciate the fact that there is some good news in the paper about Warren County, and especially with one of them being a county employee who definitely went above and beyond.

jamesnewsome
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jamesnewsome 09/10/08 - 07:19 pm
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It is great to hear good news

It is great to hear good news and I am trilled that our little town of Warrenton was represented so well. I'm a little prejudice but I just happen to think it's a pretty good place to live and raise a family. I would also like to think that Mrs. Janecki could have been "discovered" in any of the small town of Georgia and South Carolina and received exactly the same treatment. It is good to be Southern.

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