TRAVERSE CITY — Pete Kinsey wore black, head to foot, and it was 5 a.m. on an inky northern Michigan morning.
No way would someone see him walking down the side of the road, much less pick him up, Kinsey thought morosely. He trudged away from his dead truck, stranded near the Shell service station on South Airport Road.
Kinsey, 21, left extra early Tuesday, intent on warming up his struggling 2003 S-10 pickup before classes at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy.
But the engine died and he headed toward a new battery at Walmart — a 1.8-mile hike. Just Kinsey’s luck — it was one of the coldest mornings yet this winter with an “Arctic blast” closing schools and postponing public meetings.
But day care centers were open.
Felicitas “Faye” Hovland settled her children into their snow day and headed to work at Noah’s Ark Day Care Center to what was certain to be a hectic day of school-closing overflow.
Stopping to lend the black-clad Kinsey a ride was a no-brainer, Hovland said.
“It was so cold; there’s no way I’d let someone walk outside in that,” she said.
Does she make a practice of picking up stranded people by the side of the road?
“Sure,” Hovland said. “If my kids aren’t in the car.”
Same for Kinsey.
“Yeah,” Kinsey said. “Everyone gives me (grief) about it, but I tell them that ‘one day, I’ll need someone to return the favor.’ Today was that day.”
Both Kinsey and Hovland wondered if picking up hitchhikers was illegal — it depends on the locality — but believe it’s the decent thing to do.
“Pete would always call us with wild stories about people he picked up, how far away he would drive them and the things people would tell him about their lives,” said Kinsey’s mother, Toni Kinsey, a fourth grade teacher who lives 250 miles southeast in Plymouth. Pete is her youngest son.
“I was always telling him to quit it,” said Toni Kinsey, a bit chagrined.
“I cried when he called me and told me this woman picked him up,” Toni Kinsey said. “I just wanted to thank this woman as only a mother can.”
Hovland drove Pete Kinsey to Walmart, waited for him to buy a battery, returned him to his truck, and made sure he was all right before leaving him.
Neither Pete, nor Toni, knew Hovland’s name but the gesture prompted Toni Kinsey to post a grateful note on the Record-Eagle’s Facebook page in hopes the anonymous woman would see it.
“Unknown woman who ... warms a mother’s heart and I can never thank enough, thank you,” the post said.
Hovland, a lead caregiver at Noah’s Ark, is just one of those thoughtful people who does this kind of thing, said Gail Dahl, Noah’s Ark Day Care Center Director.
“She is always doing a little extra,” Dahl said.
Hovland demurred. Pete Kinsey already thanked her profusely, she said.
“He thanked me about 10,000 times,” Hovland said. “And he kept trying to buy me a doughnut.”