Note of kindness to stranger leads to Martha’s Vineyard reunion

A reunion that began on a January night. From left to right: Times managing editor Nelson Sigelman, Gina Patti, Robert Oslyn, Bruce Bailey and Kaya (Big sister Grace was working). — Photo by Susan Safford

The story that began on a winter night in January with a telephone call from Bruce Bailey of San Diego to The Times office. It was late. He caught a reporter on his way out the door. Mr. Bailey asked him if he could spare a few minutes to listen to his story.

He wanted to identify the mother and two children from Martha’s Vineyard that he met in a departure terminal at Logan Airport in Boston the Sunday following Christmas.

Mr. Bailey wanted to let the Vineyard family know how much their kindness during that meeting meant to him.

He explained that eight months earlier his wife had died of pancreatic cancer. In December, Mr. Bailey decided to travel East for one week, a trip he described as a memorial tour.

The terminal was crowded as he waited for a Southwest Airlines flight to return to San Diego. He struck up a conversation with a woman with two children from Martha’s Vineyard.

The conversation was casual despite a few tears as the older man, mother, and children shared the details of their lives. After about 40 minutes, they said goodbye and boarded the same plane.

Before the plane landed in Phoenix the two girls handed Mr. Bailey two notes that he placed in his pocket. Later, when he read their words of kindness he was deeply moved.

That winter night, Mr. Bailey told The Times why he wanted to contact. “What I would like them to know is that even at their young age they can help the world be a better place, and I’m a perfect example of it. They have helped me immeasurably in my outlook on getting through grief. That’s what they should know.

“And if I never reach out to them, they’ll never know what those simple little 40 minutes that they spent with me and their mom, and then their little notes — they’ll never have an idea of how much I want to thank them and let them know that I’m making great steps forward thanks to them.”

“Do you think there’s any chance we can find them?” he asked a reporter.

“Absolutely,” the reporter said.

The resulting story, “Healing notes of kindness span generations and the nation,” appeared on and in print January 27.

It did not take long for readers to identity the mother and two children from Martha’s Vineyard that he met in the departure terminal as Gina Patti of Oak Bluffs and her daughters, Grace and Kaya.

In a follow up story published January 27, “A link of healing kindness forged across the continent,” Mr. Bailey said, “There’s just been an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill and it is all about the girls,” Mr. Bailey said. “It is about Grace and Kaya and their kindness and their abilities at that young age to reach out. I just can’t tell you what the outpouring of joy — that’s it joy — from my friends here (San Diego) has been and it is being shared and shared and shared, and that’s a good thing, because maybe more people will understand that’s what we need.”

Mr. Bailey said, “I promise that I will see you all this summer.”

Last week, Mr. Bailey made good on his promise to visit Martha’s Vineyard and the family that had touched him so deeply.