DRACUT — A niece said Kathryn Lucier was “doing great” as she spent Wednesday night at the hospital, hours after an off-duty Dracut firefighter found the missing 75-year-old thanks to a Corelle ice cream bowl.
Lucier, a retired Dracut teacher who has dementia and Parkinson’s disease, had been missing for three cold nights since she was last seen on Sunday about 1:15 p.m.
Lucier’s niece, Cara Gagnon, said her aunt was going to spend the night at Lowell General Hospital as doctors continue to evaluate her, but that she is recovering well.
“This is amazing. It’s really a miracle,” Gagnon said. “She’s doing so much better than I could have ever hoped for.”
Lucier was found about 12:30 p.m., just a few blocks from her home, by off-duty Dracut firefighter Justin George, a veteran who is also Lucier’s neighbor.
George said he and his search partner, Lisa Dicostanza, were about to head back to the search command post when he asked Dicostanza about a Corelle bowl they had been told Lucier may have with her.
George said he thought a Corelle bowl was like a large salad or serving bowl, but when Dicostanza told him it was a regular, white, ceramic bowl, he realized he had seen such a bowl earlier just a few blocks from Lucier’s home.
George saw the ice cream bowl behind a fence in the backyard of 248 Pleasant St., and jumped the fence to get to it when he and Dicostanza returned.
“I looked over at the bowl and saw the name and looked back at Lisa and said, ‘this is it,” George said.
Just around the corner of a blue awning that covers the boat of resident Raymond Laurin, George found Lucier lying on the ground nestled up against the outside of the awning.
“Without the bowl, there’s no way I could have found her,” George said.
He said Lucier’s eyes and mouth were open and that Lucier was motionless. George said he called Dracut police and reported he found Lucier’s body. He said police arrived within about 90 seconds.
“I would have bet a paycheck that she was dead, but she started moving and talking once police got there so I ran over to try to render first aid and conduct a trauma assessment.”
George’s wife Colby, a nurse at LGH who had convinced George to go out searching Wednesday even though he had worked until 8 a.m., soon arrived and helped assist with first aid before an ambulance took Lucier to the hospital.
Meagan Laurin, who lives at 248 Pleasant St., said her family was among those who had gone out searching for Lucier. She said police had searched the backyard twice on Monday since someone thought they saw Lucier there.
The family checked again Tuesday morning, and Laurin said Wednesday was the first day that they hadn’t checked the back end of their property.
“Our German shepherd didn’t even hear her,” Laurin said.
Laurin didn’t know Lucier, but said her family felt a strong connection to her since she lived nearby.
“I broke down crying when they said she’s alive,” Laurin said. “It was a really good moment.”
George has known Lucier since he moved in near her about four years ago. He said Lucier often walks by his house, and sometimes leaves vegetables from her garden on his porch or in his mailbox.
George was adamant that it wasn’t he alone who found Lucier.
“There’s no way we would have found her if it was just me and my wife. It would have been aimless,” George said. “Colleen Garry put the search together and the amount of friends, strangers, and people who don’t even live in the town that came together — that’s what found her, not me hopping a fence.”
Garry said 125 volunteers helped search for Lucier Monday as more than 140 police officers conducted a grid search with help from canines and a state police helicopter. Garry said 100 volunteers turned out Tuesday, and 25 on Wednesday, with more expected to join after work.
“My heart is ready to burst. I’m so proud of the people who came out to look,” Garry said. “I’m overwhelmed at this point.”
Lucier’s family members traveled hours to Dracut, some from as far away as Maine.
“Our family is so grateful to Colleen and the Dracut community for working so hard to find my aunt,” said Kris Lantheaume, of Salem, Mass. “She walked every day, so this was unexpected for her to wander.”
The Lucier family released a statement thanking all who searched.
“Thank you for everything you have done to bring our beautiful mother, grandmother, friend, aunt, wife and incredible soul Kathy Lucier home to her family,” the statement read in all capital letters. “Dracut is an incredible community and you all have poured so much love into our hearts in the past three days.”
Gagnon, who cried as she spoke at a candlelight vigil of hope Tuesday night, said she cried a different kind of tears when she found out her aunt was alive.
“We were completely elated and just shocked, crying and laughing at the same time,” Gagnon said. “We couldn’t wait to get up to the hospital and see her.”
Jean O’Leary, of Dracut, said her heart was broken when she heard Lucier was missing. She had Wednesday off from work and decided to help.
“I’m so excited,” said O’Leary. “I’m so happy for the family to know she’s safe and sound.”
Another volunteer, Donna Lefebvre, said, “I was ecstatic. We all are.”
Volunteers met at Harmony Hall to celebrate the good news with pizza.
“Everybody in the building is elated,” said Interim Police Chief Neil Ouellette. “After so many days and the cold weather that we had, we’re just really happy that she was found alive.”
Garry organized volunteers, handing out maps of the town to make sure every area was searched. Garry credited Ann Tinnirella, who owns Carbon Colors, in Dracut, for printing 4,000 color fliers bearing Lucier’s image, and refusing to accept any payment.
She said statistics show missing people are usually found within two miles of their home, so she wanted to re-search the area. Garry said she was beginning to lose hope.
Upon hearing the news that Lucier was found, Garry said she dropped to the floor in tears.
“We’re so grateful to everyone, everyone in town, who put up signs, who looked in their yards, who searched,” Garry said. “We had so many people from Dracut and from around. We can’t thank all of you enough. It’s a happy ending.”
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter and Tout @KoriTuitt.
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