Patti and Barb are still convinced they encountered St. Joseph. It was an early summer afternoon in 1963. The sisters decided to ride their bikes to the Warren/Conner Shopping Center in Detroit, about three miles away. Now adults, they were about 10 and 12 on the summer day the rescue occurred. Riding their hand-me-down bikes, they decided to shortcut through a grassy field in the Gratiot/Connor area of Detroit near the old City Airport.
The girls were part of a family of 11. Their Detroit neighborhood was family-friendly and safe. Over 100 children lived on their block, most of whom attended the Catholic Elementary and High School two blocks away, as did Barb and Patti. The family were observant Catholics. (Oldest brother, Richard Pouget, became a priest.)
According to Barb, the sisters headed to the shopping center “for something to do,” If they were looking for anything, she says, it would have been records. (Remember the top 2 songs of 1963? No. 1: Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. 2: Surfin USA, Beach Boys. You know, dear reader, what a Google junkie I am.)
As they rumbled across the field, the chain on Patti’s bike dislodged. Patti banged her chest on the handlebars. The girls got off their bikes and bent over to see if they could reattach the chain. As they fretted about having to walk their bikes home, out of nowhere, an older appeared on a bike. He had an old wooden tool box with a metal handle on top. Without a word, he dismounted, pulled a tool from the tool box, bent over and reattached the loose chain. The sisters don’t recall any physical details about their rescuer, other than that he seemed to emanate light. As Patti recalls, “there was an aura of peace about him.” Neither sister was frightened at the encounter with a strange man.
As the girls stood back up from admiring the reconnected chain, they turned to thank the man. He was, Barb says, “gone as fast as he’d appeared. There was no man on a bike anywhere to be seen.”
Both girls concluded the stranger was St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Mother Mary, to whom they enjoyed creating little altars combining statuettes with lace and flowers. Jesus’ father Joseph was a carpenter by trade. The gospels refer to him as a “tekton,” traditionally taken to mean carpenter or woodworker. But the Greek term also refers to an artisan in iron or stone.
The rescued sisters couldn’t wait to tell everyone about their encounter. They returned home, feeling doubly blessed. As Barb puts it, “Maybe our trip that day for something to do really took place so that St. Joseph could firm up the faith of two little girls.”
(Thanks to Barb and Patti’s big sister and our dear friend Denise Tietze for alerting me to this sweet Godsigns story. Please send me yours.)