Heroes come in small packages

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By Erin Ballard

eballard@aberdeennews.com

Five simple words.

“Grandpa, something doesn’t look right.”

Five simple words filled with childlike concern that turned a young girl into a hero and helped a World War II veteran safely escape a fire.

Adi Lloyd, 8, of Britton was in the back of her grandparents’ pickup in Hecla New Year’s Day when she first saw the smoke.

A plume had risen from the home of 92-year-old Dale Shelton, who was fast asleep inside. The flames would eventually destroy the entire house, taking with it all of Shelton’s worldly possessions.

Adi was visiting relatives for the holiday, and saw the smoke before her grandparents, Bob and Gayle Lloyd of Hecla. The Lloyds don’t often travel down Main Street when getting around town, Gayle Lloyd said, but it seems they were in the right place at the right time.

Maybe it was divine intervention.

Either way, it was a fortunate, possibly life-changing, decision.

When Adi saw more and more thick, black smoke rolling through the sky, she insisted that the trio stop by to check on the homeowner.

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t think the person that’s in there is alive’ … there was a lot of smoke,” Adi said.

When the Lloyds pulled up to Shelton’s home, he was just exiting the burning house, slightly dazed and without a coat.

“I kind of felt worried because he had a bunch of black stuff in his hair,” Adi said.

Shelton’s head was covered in ashes as they got him in the vehicle and bundled up with blankets, while a concerned Adi monitored from the back seat.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lloyd said. “We jumped out, got him out of house and into the pickup.”

The fire was during a stretch of especially bitter winter weather.

Lloyd said there were three others running to the house when they arrived.

“All I know is that they were driving by and she said something,” said Valerie Youngman, Shelton’s daughter. “And thank God.”

Shelton was treated in an ambulance on scene, but wasn’t taken to a hospital. That wasn’t enough for Adi.

“Within 10 minutes, Adi was asking to check on him,” Lloyd said. “And they let her up there (in the ambulance) to do that.”

That compassionate instinct is something Adi has always had, Lloyd said, and should serve her well in the future. Adi plans on being a surgeon when she grows up.

“Because it helps people,” she said.

“We say prayers for him,” Adi said. “We do every night.”

Roughly a month after the tragedy, Shelton is doing well, all things considered, Youngman said. Thanks to the people of Hecla and surrounding area, he has a furnished apartment and enough clothes to last years.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but that’s not as important to Adi. Her main concern has always been Shelton.

“I stayed with my grandparents and I asked every day to see him,” Adi said of the days following the fire.

She continually asked to visit Shelton, Lloyd said, because Adi wanted to make sure he was OK.

Adi finally got her chance to confirm Shelton’s good health in his new digs. That was Jan. 20. Although he can’t remember much from the fire, Adi said that Shelton hasn’t forgotten her.

“He knew me, he remembered,” she said, thinking out loud. “Probably because he was in our pickup for a while.”

Could be.

It’s true that Shelton is not apt to forget his new, young friend.

“I told her she was our little hero,” Youngman said. “Our family would like to say a very special thank you to Adi and her grandparents for being there that day.”

Follow @eballard_aan on Twitter.

Fire destroyed Dale Sheldon’s Hecla home New Year’s Day. He’s now living in a furnished apartment in town, thanks in part to donations from residents of Hecla and the surrounding area. Photo courtesy of Jan Siemucha
Adi Lloyd, 8, stands with Dale Sheldon, 92, on the rubble that was once his Hecla home, which was destroyed by fire New Year’s Day. Courtesy photo