Lost child, reunited officer after 50 years | News, Sports, Jobs
One of Bernadette “Bernie” Imgrund’s earliest memories – of being left at a Johnstown department store when she was 3 – will come full circle on Monday when she meets former Richland Township Police Captain Tony Palm Sr., who l ‘reunited with her family almost 50 years ago.
The two are expected to meet in Palm’s bedroom at Laurel View Village in Davidsville, Somerset County, on Monday afternoon.
Palm, 90, included Imgrund’s return in a book he recently wrote and published with his son, Tony Palm Jr. Young Palm found Imgrund via social media.
“I am delighted to meet him” Imgrund, 53, said Thursday, as she sat on the porch of the Altoona home she shares with her partner, Randy Leonard.
“I don’t like to be the center of attention” said Imgrund.
“When I told her daughter (Diane Little from Westmont) she laughed and said her dad liked to be the center of attention and had no problem talking to people,” said Imgrund.
Palm’s sociability made the hour’s separation with her family less frightening, Imgrund said.
She remembers it was late fall or early winter when the family traveled from their home in the Dutch Corner section of Bedford County to Glosser Brothers in Johnstown.
Imgrund’s mother died of ovarian cancer when she was just four months old and left her father, Francis, with eight children – three under the age of 5. Relatives were caring for the three youngest, Imgrund said. After living with an aunt and uncle in Camp Hill, she returned to her father’s care around her third birthday.
“I think we were shopping for back to school or for Christmas” said Imgrund. “I remember shouting at the salesman that I had lost my daddy. Not that he lost me, but that I lost him. I also remember taking a ride in a police car.
Times were different in 1971 – cell phones, seat belts and child safety seats weren’t used.
“It amazes me that my father put the seven children in the car and did not realize that I was missing” said Imgrund. “I used to tease him about it – especially when I was a teenager.”
When the family realized that she had left her behind, they returned to the store and the store manager told them that she had been taken to the police station.
While waiting at the police station, Palm – then a father of five – kept Imgrund company.
A reporter from the Johnstown newspaper was at the police station and took a photo of the curly-haired girl and the jovial policeman just before her father arrived to pick her up.
“I remember my father hugged me and gave me a big hug” said Imgrund. “I don’t remember much of coming home – I think I fell asleep” she said.
A framed copy of the newspaper photo with its caption is treasured by Imgrund.
Tony Palm Jr. from Sterling, Virginia used the photo on the cover of a book he helped his father write, titled “My life in stories.” The book is available on Amazon.
Imgrund looks forward to receiving a signed copy of the book from Palm on Monday.
Palm Sr. said he lost count of how many books he signed, but said this one would be special as he looks at the original photo of them several times a day as it hangs up in his room.
The Imgrunds reunion has become the most memorable lost-child incident he has witnessed in his 35-year career, he said.
“I could feel that vibration go through me when I met her. And, it’s there every time I look at the photo of us… it’s a great feeling ”, Palm said, adding that he couldn’t think of the child as a 53-year-old woman because in his mind she’s still three.
“I will be surprised. I just hope she won’t be insulted when I ask for a hug.