April 03, 2013RANDOLPH — Sometimes former state Rep. Paula Bradley described being stuck overnight in her unheated sun porch as a "near disaster" and other times as an "adventure."
But Bradley, who is in her mid-80s, was absolutely consistent about one thing: the key role played by former Lt. John Scarinza of Troop F, her neighbor a mile or so away on Randolph Hill Road, in rescuing her from a situation in which she potentially could have frozen to death.
Bradley, who now spends part of her year living in a retirement community in Concord, thought that she had left some papers at her Randolph cottage that she needed to fill out her income tax forms. She had recently been at her house when her son had come to New Hampshire from Alaska and wanted to stay with her in Randolph for a few days while he attended a geology conference in Bretton Woods.
When she realized that she needed these missing papers, Bradley drove alone to her Randolph house to look for them and to spend the night.
"When I couldn't find the papers, I went out on the porch for some reason while eating a piece of pizza — my supper — and closed the door to keep the cold out of the living room — and was locked out," she explained in an e-mail exchange. "I didn't know there was such a lock on that door. It is always open in the summer, so I'd never discovered it. When we lived there all year round, I don't think it ever was locked.
"I yelled and yelled, first on one side of the porch (that is located at the back of house 10 feet or more above ground), then on the other, but — up hill or down hill — no one heard me," Bradley recalled. "When I realized I was trapped, I wrapped myself up in an acrylic blanket which was out there and then lay down, pulled the big old wool rug from the floor over me and bundled myself up as best I could in that and slept a bit.
"In the morning I started yelling again," Bradley said. "I had called John (Scarinza) and a couple of others in town when I got there on Saturday to let them know I was in town. I knew John must be sugaring, so I left a message on his phone tape.
"On Sunday morning John tried to call me. No answer, so he came down to see if something was wrong.
"Never was a face at the window — a porch door window — so beautiful. Dear John. Now I know what Randolph friends are."
"I'm fine. I was fine — thirsty and hungry — but just plain grateful to that wonderful guy."
He's still amazed that Bradley was able to survive some 14 hours in the bitter cold.
"I'm just amazed at how well Paula was after spending that night outside on the porch," Scarinza said, wonder in his voice. "Saturday was just a miserable cold, snowy and blowing day. I remember being cold at the sugarhouse in the afternoon, and I was fully dressed to be outside. How she was able to keep her body temperature up during the night when the temperatures were in the low 20s or below is beyond me.
"She's tough! We were lucky this time."
Scarinza emphasized the "this time" for a reason. Twice before this town of less than 350 residents has had adults who have been locked out of their houses die of exposure.
Katherine Wood, the town's beloved former postmistress, died of exposure in the late 1980s when she could not get into her house after coming home from a meeting.
In her memory, the nonprofit Randolph Foundation established and maintains a matching program to help both year-round and summer residents pay to rent a lifeline device. Wood was one of the Foundation's five original incorporators.
Only a few people in town realize that another person died of exposure in the first decade of the 21st century. That person's family members who live in another state apparently did not want the neighbors of their relative to feel guilty or in any way responsible for that death.
Both Bradley and Scarinza believe that this latest incident should serve as a wakeup call — especially for those living alone — to be extremely careful about automatic "snap" locks and to take the time to plan other ways to ensure their safety.