Sometimes a horrible situation can be turned into an unexpected blessing, thanks to the pull of a heartwrenching story and the generosity of strangers.
One Army veteran from Arizona was reminded of that this month after being robbed of his hard-earned money.
Floyd Barber, a 91-year-old veteran who served in the Korean War, had saved up some money to get some much-needed dental work done. He had $7,000 in cash that he was taking to the bank to deposit.
On his way to make the deposit, he stopped at a gas station on the corner of N. Silverbell and Cortero Road in Tucson, Arizona. A woman trying to sell fake gold approached him.
“I was on my way to Chase Bank,” he told Fox News. “I stopped at Fry’s service station to get some gas, and my money was in an envelope in my pocket.”
It wasn’t the first time Barber had seen this woman trying to ply her wares, but it was the first time he’d had such a large sum on his person around her. And she took advantage of it.
“This woman grabbed me,” he said. “She started kissing my forehead and hugging me, shaking me all up. She got my money.”
He wasn’t going to go quietly and was carrying a firearm.
“I had a gun on me, so I pulled it out,” Barber said. “I wasn’t going to shoot her, but it didn’t scare her, and she just started taking off. A man [who was] next to me getting gas tried to catch her. He was a young man, and he couldn’t do it. She got away.”
The Marana Police Department arrived and took his information, but the surveillance system at the gas station was apparently down, so they were unable to get any footage of the incident.
“They interviewed me, and then they started looking for her,” Barber said. “She works the parking lots trying to sell a fake gold ring. So, she had approached me two or three times before that.”
Sgt. Erin Ysaguirre, a Marana Police Department public information officer, said they had no leads but were hoping that nearby businesses might have surveillance footage.
“We certainly hope to catch whoever did this,” Ysaguirre said.
After all that had transpired, Barber turned in to a restaurant that had become a familiar place to him. The name of the restaurant was not shared, but Barber has been going weekly for at least a decade.
Server Sheri Tacchia greeted the familiar patron and soon got the sad story out of him.
“Floyd has been coming here a long time,” Tacchia said. “He loves to talk over a bowl of soup and a glass of milk.
“He’s one of my customers, and all the servers here know him. He is just the kindest person, the kindest soul.”
When she found out what had happened, she was heartbroken for the veteran.
“My first reaction was to find out if he was OK,” she said. “He told me, ‘Yes, just shook up.’ He explained what happened, and it just broke my heart. I’m the mom of two veterans and the daughter of a veteran. So, I didn’t see how someone could do something like this.
“He wasn’t panicked, but more in disbelief, I guess. He told me nothing like this has happened to him in 91 years. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. So, I sat down with him and asked if I could please help him, if he’d let me. He said, ‘Sure.’”
Despite never having started a GoFundMe before, Tacchia took off with her new mission, and Barber’s story was soon tugging at heartstrings.
“I got a hold of our local news station and I talked with them,” Tacchia said. “I’ve never done a GoFundMe in my life. I’ve never done anything like this. I met him at the restaurant, it was Sunday, and I brought him back to my house, so they could do the news broadcast here.”
People started donating online. Some walked into the restaurant and directly handed her cash. A local dentist offered his services to Barber, so he could use the money for other things.
And the money kept coming in. The GoFundMe currently sits at over $12,200 — closing in on double what Barber lost.
“The people at the bank were so helpful, and we got it all figured out,” Tacchia said. “Floyd kept wanting to give me some of the money, but of course I said, ‘No, no, no.’”
Tacchia says that all she asks for in return for her efforts is Barber’s friendship. And for Barber, the incident has given him hope.
“It makes me feel real good to know that there’s more good people out there than bad people,” he said.