By Juanice Gray
It’s long been said that the best part of Natchitoches is its people. No truer statement was ever made, especially when you ask a visitor from Bossier City on her second trip to our fair city. Debbie Williams and friend Cassie Padilla have a whole new perspective about this city, and were practically gushing to tell about it. Let us step back. It was almost two years ago to the day when Williams and her husband visited Natchitoches to celebrate her birthday. “We stayed at a B&B and spent a few days enjoying the shopping and seeing the lights.” It was on one of those shopping excursions that she found the most beautiful coat, snow white and a perfect fit.
It was a cool day in Natchitoches and the coat was the ideal purchase at Hello Dolly on Front Street. In typical Louisiana fashion, the weather changed and the coat wasn’t needed for several days after their visit. As the next nip in the air rolled in Williams found she again needed to don a coat, but reached for her old one instead of the sparkling white one. That is when she realized the older coat was missing. “It was probably two weeks before I realized it was missing. I thought and thought and it took me a while to even guess where I might have left it,” she said. “I thought it might have been the shop where I got my new coat, but that was just a guess.”
Fast forward. Two full years have passed and Williams makes her second trip to Natchitoches. Padilla is a native of Montrose, Colo., based at Barksdale and Williams wanted to show her the lights and food of the City on the Cane. “We had like 15 minutes to spare so on a whim I told Cassie we should check with the shop to see if they possibly still had my coat. I really didn’t have any hope, but it was worth it to ask,” Williams said. As the ladies discussed entering the store, through the open door store manager Jean McElwee overheard part of their conversation. “I thought they were talking about a coat in the window they’d seen.”
Williams said she’d barely gotten the words “I might have left my coat here two years ago” out of her mouth when McElwee asked “Is it orange?” “My jaw dropped. Who would keep a stranger’s coat two years?” Williams said. “We found the coat after closing the store that day, but for the life of us we couldn’t remember who it might have belonged to. We couldn’t think of a name and didn’t have a number,” McElwee said. Williams said she probably made the purchase with her birthday cash and wouldn’t have left a way to trace her from her transaction. All store owner Judy Davis could recall was it was probably the doctor’s wife from Bossier, not enough to narrow down for a search. “So we just hung it up in the back knowing someone would probably come back one day for it,” Davis said. “They brought my coat right out from the back! I couldn’t believe it,” Williams said.
McElwee laughed saying, “It’s strange to see it on her and not on a hanger. We’ve seen it every day for two years.” “I’m so glad we impressed somebody with our kindness,” Davis said. And isn’t kindness, especially this time of year, the impression we want to give? Just another shining example of the true warmth of Natchitoches.