The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 15, 2013

Crossing the country, a grieving father touched a life

(Continued)

“His speech on the walk was that parents, teachers, kids, everyone needed to be educated on the effects of bullying,” said Hill, who helped organize the walk and attended its chilly kickoff. “He was really strong on making sure that parents knew that whatever the kids were doing was a reflection of the parents.”

Last Tuesday, Bell was walking along Highway 40 in Lincoln County, Colo., southeast of Denver, when Sheriff Nestor drove up.

“I generally don’t share personal stories with people I just meet, but Joe was different and (I) could tell right away he was a good man,” Nestor said in his email. “I talked with Joe about my oldest son who is also gay. Joe talked to me about accepting my son without question, because he was born that way and (it) was not a choice.”

Nestor went back to his office, called his department chaplain and told the man they were going for a ride. “You have to meet Joe Bell,” Nestor told him.

The two men invited Bell to talk the next night to local youths about bullying. Bell agreed, but said he needed to walk more first. That night, he made it to the town of Hugo.

On Wednesday, Nestor called Bell to check in and make sure the talk was still on.

“Absolutely,” Bell responded, but said he wanted to walk until 6 p.m. before having Nestor pick him up. So the sheriff headed home and talked with his wife about having Bell spend the night.

“I headed Joe’s way when I got the call of a pedestrian hit in the next county,” Nestor continued. “I checked his GPS online and confirmed Joe was in fact in that area.”

On went the sirens and the lights. Nestor raced to the scene. The first thing he saw was Bell’s cart in the middle of the highway. The medical staff were about to cover Bell’s body.

“I got down on one knee and put my hand on Joe’s head and said a silent prayer,” Nestor wrote. “I then told the ambulance crew who the man was in front of them. ...

“He may not have reached his destination but I feel like he completed his mission.”

———

©2013 Los Angeles Times

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