It is true: Not all who wander are lost. Still, it is likely J.R.R. Tolkien, the author credited with that quote, did not consider the unfortunate souls bedeviled by one of the most mysterious, confounding afflictions known to mankind.
Two years ago, 72-year-old Bill Wilson was diagnosed with frontaltemporo dementia (FTD). It is the same disorder plaguing the famous action movie hero, Bruce Willis, who is 63.
FTD can cause dramatic changes to personalities and lead to impulsive and sometimes inappropriate behavior. It can render a victim emotionally indifferent, while others lose the ability to use language properly. Many of those symptoms have manifested in Bill Wilson since his diagnosis two years ago, including a penchant to pound the pavement in Ogden, walking away without anyone noticing until he is miles from home, in parts unknown.
On one occasion in early 2023, UTA came to the rescue for Bill’s wife Judy Wilson, a busy woman who serves on the Ogden school board, when she is not taking care of her six and two-year-old granddaughters. Unbeknownst to Judy, Bill had strolled from their long time home in East Central Ogden. He had gone unaccounted for two hours when UTA Police Sergeant Todd Watanabe stepped into Bill’s life.
Sgt. Watanabe had been dispatched to the Ogden depot to check on a suspicious person aimlessly wandering around The Hub, raising concerns. Watanabe found Bill and recognized the signs of someone battling dementia. In the past those signs had sometimes been misinterpreted by less-than-kind strangers. “He’d sometimes come home with a black eye,” said Judy. “We assumed he might have said the wrong thing to somebody.”
On this day, though, Bill had the good fortune of encountering Sgt. Watanabe, who engaged Bill in conversation and managed to learn his name and phone number, leading to the call Judy was hoping for. After all, her husband was known to wander as far as 10 miles from home in the past. On this day, Bill received a ride home from Sgt. Watanabe and was returned safely to his loved ones.
Sgt. Watanabe went the extra mile by uploading Bill’s photograph into UTA’s reporting system, along with wife Judy’s contact information. If Bill should wander away again, and there is a strong chance he will, UTA dispatchers should be able to make a speedy Identification and know who to contact right away.
This was all in a day’s work for Sgt. Watanabe, who invited Judy Wilson to contact him directly should her husband go missing again. While this may be a commonplace occurrence for a UTA police officer, UTA’s Board of Trustees felt this incident should not be overlooked, honoring Sgt. Watanabe at a recent board meeting.
So no, all who wander are not lost. But for those who are, like Bill Wilson, it’s comforting for loved ones to know Todd Watanabe is just a phone call away. Judy Wilson summed it up best “Sergeant Watanabe has been very kind.” And that kind of kindness is something everyone needs, especially caretakers searching for lost souls.
For UTA employees, “We Move You” is not just the agency’s mission. It is a personal commitment to serving everyone in the community. That commitment sometimes saves a life, or, at the very least, rescues a neighbor in need.