“I think she was his guardian angel,” says driver
Hill City Elementary’s Alexis Peacock is credited for spotting an elderly man on the ground and alerting a bus driver.
Wednesday, May 2nd started like any other school day for fourth grader Alexis Peacock, who got on the bus to head to Hill City Elementary - but when she saw a man lying on the ground on the side of the road she knew she had to say something.
“She came up to me and told me there was a man on the ground face down,” said Connie Essary, driver of bus #38. “The kids are trained not to come when we are loading or unloading, but she came up anyway. On buses, you’re higher and see things other people can’t, and she saw him. I’m a firm believer in guardian angels, and I think she was his guardian angel.”
The man is 89-year-old Firetower Road resident Richard Boltz, who is in declining health, and who lives alone in an RV near other family members. After his wife died his family insisted he move to Pickens from Florida because they knew he shouldn’t live without a support system close by. The night before Alexis saw him on the side of the road, Boltz had gone outside to close a door at a stand-alone garage. He fell and couldn’t get up on his own. A family member said he laid on the ground all night until the next morning when Alexis spotted him and the bus driver alerted 911.
“My uncle Jim had brought him home and got him in his recliner at about 8:30 that night and nobody dreamed he would get outside, but he thought the garage door was up and wanted to check on it,” said his niece Teresa Blackwell, who grew up going to her uncle’s house in the summer and who calls the family “very close.”
“His knees buckled and he fell,” she said. “Of course, you worry about coyotes and bears and those kinds of things. It just breaks my heart that he was out there all night. If she hadn’t noticed him he could have been out there until the afternoon or later. I’m so grateful to her that she saw him and spoke up.”
Blackwell said her uncle scooted about six inches per hour trying to get back to the RV “even though once he got there he wouldn’t be able to get up the steps.” Blackwell bought him a cell phone in case of emergencies, which he usually has in his pocket, but the evening he fell he left it in the house.
Boltz was transported to the hospital, where he stayed a few days for injuries and illness from being outside overnight.
“He was scraped up, and has double pneumonia,” Blackwell said. “I don’t know how cold it was that night but it was too cold for him. He’s getting older.”
After a second stay in the hospital Blackwell says her uncle should get to come home in the next day or so.
Word of Alexis’ good deed made its way to administrators at her school. Hill City Elementary Principal Jennifer Halko gave her a shout-out during morning announcements.
“Every morning we do shout-outs,” Halko said. “They’ll be for academic achievements or acts of kindness, but we gave Alexis a shout out for being responsible. We focus on responsible, safe, and respectful behavior, and I told the school she was a true hero for being so responsible and reporting this. We have such good kids and they should be recognized.”
Alexis’ mother Kimberly Potts said her daughter was so happy she could help, and was excited to be called a hero. When the Progress spoke to her, Alexis had a tone of this was just the right thing to do.
“I just saw him and went to the bus driver,” she said. “She called the ambulance. But yes, it did feel good to be called a hero.”
Blackwell, Boltz’s niece, was a bus driver for nearly two decades and says Alexis went above and beyond, considering bus protocol. She has plans to meet Alexis to show her gratitude.
“They’re told not to go up during loading, so she had to be really persistent to let the driver know something was going on,” she said. “I just want to thank her so much for what she did.”