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Act of kindness stuns victims of vandalism
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Manteca Ford dealer Phil Waterford gets a hug from a grateful Deb Hale after he presented her with a car a year newer than the one she and her husband John saw damaged with raw eggs while parked in front of their Powers Avenue home in broad daylight. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Shock and sadness over having their small sports car’s interior egged last week turned to joy when Manteca Ford dealership owner Phil Waterford stepped up to the plate making seniors John and Deborah Hale speechless with his gift of cash and a replacement vehicle.

What brought the woman’s tears and halting speech was the presentation of a 2001 Buick LeSabre with only 85,000 miles to replace their 2000 vintage sports car instead of detailing it. Waterford also gave the couple $900.

The Hales had been planning on selling their 2000 Mazda Miata to buy something larger and more functional to transport their grandchildren in addition to the fact getting into their fun vehicle wasn’t getting any easier for them.  They had moved the car out of the garage and parked it in front of the house on July 2. It was a ploy to hopefully get it noticed by potential buyers.

It was in the middle of the day that vandals struck and smeared raw eggs in just about every crevice they could find on the dashboard, gear shift, radio and stereo.

Waterford said he had arrived at the dealership Saturday morning and read the Hale’s story on the front page of the Manteca Bulletin about the egg vandalism and the other thefts they had suffered.

“I was not sure what kind of person would do something like this,” Waterford said, “but I knew I wanted to help.”

He said he immediately contacted his team at work and told them to get in contact with the Hales and assure them that help was on the way.

“Whether it’s repairing the damage that was done, replacing components or just trading the vehicle for a new one that would better meet their needs, I instructed our team to get it done,” he said.

 Not only are they senior citizens, but Waterford learned that Deborah Hale is involved with an outreach program for women to raise awareness for breast cancer by providing mobile mammograms.  John is a veteran who served in the armed forces.

“As you may know the fight against breast cancer and our veterans are two things that I’m extremely passionate about,” he said, noting that his mother is a breast cancer survivor.

With the newspaper story coming out Saturday, Deborah Hale woke up to a ringing telephone with family and friends making contact for the first time since the egging. 

She further explained that after an hour of phone calls and text messages her cell phone rang.  Despite not recognizing the number, she answered the call from Manteca Ford dealership manager Bill Clinton.

“He said he had read what had happened to us in the newspaper and he and Mr. Waterford would like us to come down sometime that day, asking what time would work best for us,” she said.

She clearly remembers his final instructions: “Bring the car and the husband!”

“I was hoping they would detail the car for us and get the egg out of the dash and stereo as it would take a professional to detail the car with the egg damage still evident after we had spent hours trying to clean it,” she said.

She admittedly had suffered a bad week physically and was slow in her movements.  Her fibromyalgia had been flaring up for a week and she complained of not sleeping as it had been a rough few days.

When they arrived at the dealership they recalled enjoyable small talk with staff members and then meeting Waterford’s son of the same name.  He told them he would like to show them a car and would drive it around front of the showroom for their inspection.

“Hmmm,” we thought, “something is fishy around here.  We were still not sure why we were summoned to the dealership.”

 The Hales told both the salesman and the younger Waterford that they were not in the market to buy a car right then.  Misunderstanding the motive at hand, they said they didn’t want payments on a new car or whatever they were trying to sell them.

 The couple did test drive the car that Mrs. Hale regarded as her “dream car” just to humor the staff,  still unaware of what was about to take place to help them out of their dilemma.

Phil Waterford Jr. told them they were not trying to sell them anything – only to help them after their being victims of terrible vandalism.  He offered to “give us” the Buick LeSabre, pay all the fees and hand them $900 in exchange for the egg encrusted Mazda Miata.

“I started shaking, tears running down my cheeks.  Speechless!  I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this one, so John did the talking as I sat there trying to figure out what is happening.  They had nothing to gain by doing this for us.  I really thought they were going to give us a car detailing service – not a new car!” she said.

She said her prayers of getting rid of the Miata had been answered. 

“I have a car that I feel safe in, can transport my grandchildren in, and can now drive my friends and family when they need a hand,” she said.

She said that it has been hard for her to grasp that there are still so many good people left in the world.  There are people like the Waterfords that are true friends to the community who have good hearts and care about others around them, she added.

“This will never be forgotten and one man’s kindness has changed my life and attitude forever,” said Hale who had a few days prior said the acts of vandalism committed against them was making her lose faith in people. “I feel that there must be some divine intervention when something that means so little to someone, can mean the world to someone else,” she said.

And for that “dream car” – it had just been taken in on a trade.  It was a car that had been continually serviced by the Waterford dealership for all of its 85,000 miles.  It had come in just before the Hales arrived Saturday afternoon.