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Cape Breton native finds missing senior in Scarborough, Ont.

Roxanne Leadbeater, right, with her granddaughter Sydney Leadbeater in October. New Waterford native is being called a hero by the family of a 74-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who was missing in Scarborough for 24 hours.
Roxanne Leadbeater, right, with her granddaughter Sydney Leadbeater in October. New Waterford native is being called a hero by the family of a 74-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who was missing in Scarborough for 24 hours. - Contributed

TORONTO, ONT. — Roxanne Leadbeater listened to her gut instincts on Dec. 26 when she went searching for a missing senior with Alzheimer’s disease in Scarborough, Ont.

The New Waterford native, who has been living Ontario for 24 years, was one of the many concerned citizens who joined police in the search for 74-year-old Shirley Lee.

Lee, who has a heart condition, left her home on Dec. 24 at 9 p.m. When she didn’t return, police were called and the search started for the senior who left without any of her medications.

On Dec. 26, temperatures were dropping to around -13 C that night. Leadbeater decided to help search.

Police and search crews were scouring the area Lee was last seen but Leadbeater said there were so many people and dogs she thought it would be better to search a different area.

She searched from about 4-8 p.m. then went home to eat and put on warmer clothing. At 9 p.m. Leadbeater went out to search and decided to try some buildings across the street from her home.

Shirley Lee, left, with her grandson Chris Chase at his wedding.
Shirley Lee, left, with her grandson Chris Chase at his wedding.

After she checked two, she went down a side street and saw a school. Behind the school she saw Lee inside a gated playground. It was about 9:15 p.m.

“It was a miracle the right time, the right place,” the married grandmother said.

“I knew right away it was her. Where she was sitting there was a bright light over her. I was calling 911 as I was getting out of the car.”

The fence was locked so Leadbeater climbed over. She wrapped Lee in her scarf to warm her face and gave the senior her hat.

Chris Chase, one of Lee’s grandchildren, said his grandmother was about a 15-minute drive from her home. He said Leadbeater couldn’t have found her at a better time.

“The doctor said that perhaps in a couple of hours (from when Lee was found) she would have gone into cardiac arrest,” said the married father of two.

“Because of how cold she was, the doctor said recovery from that would have been difficult.”

The first thing Chase told Leadbeater when he met her on Dec. 27 was, “Thank you. You saved my grandmother.”

Leadbeater said where she found Lee was about 15 minutes away from one of the first Scarborough neighbourhoods Lee had lived in.

When found, Lee had severe hypothermia, frostbite on her right hand and swollen legs. She is still in hospital recovering and Chase said she is alert.

Leadbeater’s sister, Patsy Leadbeater, said she isn’t surprised her sister would be quick to jump in and help.

“Roxanne worked in security for years and would assist many people in need,” she said.

“We are all very proud of her.”

Leadbeater is happy she could help and said she is still “shocked” she was able to find Lee.

“I just said to my husband it still bothers me and I can still see her face in my mind. She was so scared. She was so cold. I couldn’t even move her she was that cold,” she said.

“People say I’m a hero but I don’t see that.”

nicole.sullivan@cbpost.com

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