By Mary Spicer
When 16-year-old Jacob Simpson set off on a walk on Mother’s Day afternoon, the last thing he had in mind was saving a life.
Thursday, he received a commendation from Cochranton Mayor Burt Waite and Police Chief Heather Beachy for doing just that.
In the official letter accompanying a framed commendation issued “in recognition of a selfless act of assistance,” Waite and Beachy noted that “On Sunday, May 12, you noticed that Mr. Pearson needed help. Your quick actions to seek help potentially saved his life. If it weren’t for your assistance, Mr. Pearson may not have been found or helped.”
“Mr. Pearson” is Bill Pearson, who was working on his motor home in his South Franklin Street back yard when he fell and sustained a broken hip. Pearson, who remains hospitalized, was not available for comment.
The commendation was presented during a surprise assembly of seventh- and eighth-grade students at Cochranton Junior-Senior High School, where Simpson is an eighth-grader.
“Mother’s Day this year was a particularly cold day,” Waite explained to the students filling the school’s cafeteria. Pearson, who had fallen and was on the ground, was calling for help but no one heard his cries, Waite continued. “After about three hours, his situation was desperate — until a student went to his assistance. That student went to three homes to get help.”
Applause erupted as the police chief announced the name of the hero, who accepted the commendation and thanked everyone in the room for their response.
“That was so sweet,” one student was heard commenting to a friend as they returned to class after the assembly.
The young hero’s parents, Cochranton residents Corey Simpson and Alan Tuttle, were on hand for the presentation.
“He saw a problem and went through all the steps to solve it,” a very proud Corey Simpson told the Tribune before the ceremony began. “It’s the best Mother’s Day present I could ever get. He’s my hero.”
Any parent would have been proud, but this mom had a special reason to smile. Jake, who has an autism disorder, did everything right. “He didn’t panic,” she said. “He didn’t stutter. He didn’t shut down. He didn’t run away from it. He stayed calm.” And if that wasn’t enough, she added, “it was a stranger, which is new to him.”
That said, however, she wasn’t surprised. “I don’t worry about Jake because he always makes the right choices,” she said. “He saw a situation that needed to be dealt with — and he dealt with it appropriately.”
After the ceremony, Jake sat down with the Tribune to share the story of the afternoon walk that began at his home near Cochranton Junior-Senior High School.
“I was walking on the sidewalk coming from the elementary school when I heard a little sound,” he recalled. Looking around, he saw something. “An old man was waving at me,” he continued. “I went over.”
Pearson, who was on the ground, asked Jake to help him up. “It was difficult, because I didn’t know what was wrong,” Jake recalled. After they tried twice to get Pearson up on his feet, Jake covered him with his coat and set out to find help.
“At the first two or three houses, there was no one home,” he continued. “At the fourth house, a good woman came to the door. I asked her to please help me get him up.” Together, they tried. When their efforts also failed, Jake stayed with Pearson while she called 911. He continued to stay at Pearson’s side until the ambulance arrived.
“Once I heard he was all right,” Jake said, “I finished my walk.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.