CINCINNATI — We’ve all taken a wrong turn and gotten befuddled in a strange city, but Shirley McKeown had more than 1,000 miles left to drive when she got off track in the Queen City's West Side.
Just before Christmas, the elderly Indiana woman was following U.S. Route 27 through Lexington, Chattanooga and Tallahassee all the way to the tiny community of Venus, Florida, midway between Tampa and Miami.
Cincinnati Police Officer Virginia Villing said McKeown pulled her little yellow Smart car up behind her patrol car on Queen City Avenue and asked for help.
"She had several maps with her that she had highlighted,” Villing said. “She got off of her path, but she had the whole thing mapped out down to Florida, and she just made a wrong turn somehow.”
Villing set McKeown back on the right course by insisting she take her personal GPS unit and then driving with her to Spring Grove Avenue.
"I told her how to use it, and kept my fingers crossed,” Villing said. “And she went on her way … she reminded me of my mom, and I thought, ‘You know, I would hope someone would do this for my mom.’”
The officer went about her business until a package addressed to her arrived at District Three headquarters last week. McKeown had made it to the Sunshine State safely and mailed back the GPS unit.
"When I got the package in the mail, it wasn’t the GPS I was worried about because I gave that to her,” Villing said. "What made me feel good was that there was a note in there saying that she had made it to Florida, so thank goodness for that because I really was worried about her."
Sgt. Christopher Seta of the Cincinnati Police Department called Villing a “shining star” for the department that day.
"That’s what being a police officer is all about,” Seta said. "We’re not just here for the bad things. We see every side of life. We see the good stuff. We see the extreme bad stuff, but at the end of the day we’re not the enemy. We’re here to help."