By Winston Spencer Jr.
The Huntsville Item
HUNTSVILLE — When Walker County Sheriff's deputies responded to a suspected burglary two years ago at the home of 83-year-old Madelene Patton, they left with much more than they expected.
The burglary turned out to be a case of a misplaced necklace. But officers noticed Patton was all alone with no family to speak of. She is originally from upstate New York but now lives in northern Walker County. Cpl. Kennille Phelps immediately felt a sense of responsibility.
"She (Phelps) started to initiate efforts to make Patton feel comfortable, and her attitude was just infectious and spread through out the entire department," Sheriff Clint McRae said.
What began as a small birthday gathering and cake, grew — due to Phelps' efforts — into an entire department adopting Patton as a member of the family.
"We just had to keep her on our radar," Phelps said. "So whenever any one of us was in the area, we checked on her did as best we could to sort of look after her because she's a treasure."
Phelps' coworkers recognize her dedication to helping others.
"Dedication is the only word to describe her, I mean all the effort she put in to keep her fresh on the hearts and minds, of the whole department just says so much about her," deputy Allen Licon said.
Patton is grateful for the attention after living alone for a number of years since her husband died.
"The department gave me the biggest and best birthday party I ever had in my whole life. I want everyone in this county to know that they are the finest group of officers in this country and they were all so good looking too," Patton said with a wink.
"They are a blessing, all of them, I pray for all of them every night they didn't have to do anything but they worried about me, they really cared about me," she continued fighting back tears.
Christmas came around in 2012 and Phelps felt that this was a time to spread the cheer of the season so she organized all available officers to celebrate with Patton.
"She just took it upon herself to coordinate everything down to the last detail," Lt. Jason Sullivan said.
Normally officers would spend time away from their families to go stop by Patton's house on the holiday. This year, every member of the sheriff's office, except for a skeleton crew, along with their own families brought the family atmosphere to her.
"I knew that we all had families and Christmas is a time for families to be together so we took our families this time and we all celebrated the holidays together," Phelps said.
That made the most recent Christmas the best one yet.
"The door opened and it was just wonderful they took care of everything and this one (Phelps) was the leader," Patton said. "I just love her, I love all of them."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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