Editor’s note: A man now living in Phoenix called the Milton Courier to share the story of how a Milton resident helped him decades earlier. By sharing this story, the man hopes to reunite with the person and to remind us that good things happen and can have long-lasting significance.
Ralph and Jackie Crudup were on their way to Wisconsin Dells when their car broke down.
The couple were traveling from their home in Illinois and were about 10 miles from the nearest exit, which was Milton. It was about 10 p.m. on a Friday in 1979.
“We were praying that somebody would help us,” Ralph remembered.
Their prayers were answered by a man in a pickup truck who offered to help. The two men couldn’t get the car started, so the man offered to give the Crudups a ride to his house, where they could stay overnight. He told them his wife was at work and his daughters were at a sleepover.
“It looked like it was heading up to be one of those bizarre evenings where you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ralph said.
The man was white. The Crudups are Black.
When they arrived at the house, they saw a young white man on the couch. He had long hair and tattoos.
“We had our own little mindset going,” recalled Ralph, a teacher who today lives in Phoenix with his wife.
The man hadn’t mentioned he had a son, who might have been 17 at the time. After being introduced to the couple, the son got up and went to bed.
The Crudups slept in the daughters’ bedroom.
“We woke up to the smell of bacon and eggs,” Ralph said.
The man’s wife was home from work. The Crudups began to feel more at ease.
Thinking they could find parts to fix the car, they headed to Janesville but couldn’t find an open store that sold auto parts.
They returned to the house and spent the rest of the day talking and “just hanging out.”
When the man wasn’t in the room, his wife confided to the Crudups that she had tried to get her husband to stop helping strangers. It was dangerous, she said, and he knew that because he had been robbed.
But like the good Samaritan in the Bible, that’s just who he was, the wife said. If he saw someone who needed help, he tried to help.
The Crudups stayed a second night. The next morning, they decided to see if the car would start. It did, and they headed home to Illinois.
Before they left, they gave the man their address and exchanged phone numbers. What they didn’t know until they got home is that the man had followed them home to make sure they arrived safely.
“We talked a few times after that (by phone) because it was a very appreciative moment,” Ralph said, but they lost touch after two or three years.
The Crudups recently reached out to the Milton Courier to see if the man or his family still live in the Milton area.
When asked why he wanted to reach out now, Ralph mentioned the “brutality African Americans are facing with the police” and the “injustices that have been occurring in this country for God knows how long.”
And he was thinking about the good Samaritan he met years ago, the man who treated him and his wife like family.
“This was something that was special to me,” Ralph said. “It shows we got to look at some of the good. This was really a touching moment because that was my first experience actually having someone reach out to me, and it wasn’t a color issue, and going beyond what was normally done.”
Ralph has shared the story many times, including with his four now-adult children.
“I think in this time we’re in now, these are the things we need to hear to balance all of the negativity going on,” he said. “People do reach out. People do really care, Black, white, Hispanic or Asian or Native American ...”
If Milton’s good Samaritan can be found, the Crudups want to re-establish the connection.
“I want to let them know that what they did for us still has value, still has purpose, and it actually has played forward with my own children,” Ralph said
Since he was helped by a stranger, Ralph himself has helped strangers.
The attempt to reconnect isn’t only about the Crudups.
“Sometimes when you get in touch with people, you never know what they’re going through,” he said. “Maybe they’re going through issues where they need to know what they’ve done still has value, meaning and significance. I want to reach out and share that and maybe chronicle it.”
The details Ralph shared are his best recollection. He knows it’s possible that the man who helped him is no longer living. Maybe his family doesn’t live in the Milton area. But he’s taking a chance because the story is significant.
“We need stories of positivity between not just races, but people,” he said.