Lifestyle & Human Interest

Couple Goes Above and Beyond To Help 79-Year-Old Man They'd Just Met Reunite with Son


With all our digital maps and apps, it’s not often that we stop to ask for directions anymore. Handwritten instructions and Thomas Guides are relics from another age.

But a piece of paper containing hand-written directions was all 79-year-old Dennis Milentz, who’d been in the Marines, had to guide him as he made the trek from Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, to Fremont, Wisconsin.

Milentz was traveling to see his son — which he hadn’t done for nearly two decades — but he got lost, and ended up 200 miles off-course at a gas station in Illinois.

Thankfully, engaged couple Elton Hood and Tracy Eckhardt were also at that gas station, and they offered to help Milentz.

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At first, Hood wrote more directions for Milentz, programmed the GPS he saw in Milentz’s car and gave him his phone number in case he needed help.

Fifteen minutes later, Milentz called. Lost, again.

The couple quickly offered to help him get to Madison, Wisconsin, which was about three hours away and halfway to his final Wisconsin destination.

“We had kind of already said that that could be anybody’s parent or anybody’s grandparent,” Eckhardt told People.

“There are so many people who have parents that will go do these things and they end up lost, or they meet somebody not so nice that takes advantage of them. And that just wasn’t going to be an option for us to hear down the road that he was missing and know that at one point we had the opportunity to turn it around and get him there safely.”

“We would have felt guilty forever if something like that would’ve happened. So when he called, it was pretty instantaneous. Here we go!”

Milentz followed the couple as they drove in their own car, and Eckhardt documented their travels on TikTok. They stopped in Iowa for lunch, becoming fast friends. Eventually, he made it to his family, thanks to Hood and Eckhardt.

But Milentz had driven out, and he would need to drive back.

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“[His family’s] plan was to take him to Madison and write out instructions and hope for the best,” Eckhardt said. “And we had already discussed that him going on his own was not going to be an option for us because we would still feel bad. Like, we had started it with him and didn’t see it through to the end. And neither of us were raised that way. And that’s not how we raise our children.”

“If you start something, you finish it. So we started it by getting him to his son and it was the right thing to do to finish getting him home. So he called me and instead of saying, ‘Are you ready to go to Wisconsin?’ he said, ‘Are you ready to go to Arizona?'”

The selfless couple met Milentz and his family escort in LaSalle, Illinois, on July 22, and drove his truck more than 1,600 miles — 27 hours — just to make sure their new friend got home safely.

Since their journey had gone viral online, someone offered to pay for plane tickets so Eckhardt and Hood could fly back instead of renting a car.

“We’re normal people,” Eckhardt said. “Alone, we’re not exceptional. But together, people can do exceptional things … 2020 hasn’t been a good year for most of us. You kind of forget the good parts of the world and your neighbors and your communities. And I feel like we kind of brought that to light and that’s been the best feeling of all.”

“I mean, it was a great feeling getting Dennis home. But when you realize that maybe you’ve inspired 3 million people … how often in your life are you ever going to be able to do that?”

“Their picture should be in a book called ‘Good Samaritan,'” said Milentz’s son, Steven, according to WCAX-TV.

“You can’t find many people like that,” Milentz added. “All I can say is, ‘God bless them.’

“When they pass away, raise them immediately up to Heaven.”

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