On the evening of their 44th wedding anniversary, Randy and Jane Wallis were on their way to dinner at Blackwall Hitch in Rehoboth Beach.
Jane asked Randy to go inside to let the restaurant know they had arrived while she parked the car.
Minutes later as she parked the car, the restaurant called, asking if the couple were still planning to come. Jane said her husband should be in the restaurant to reserve their table.
But Randy was nowhere in sight.
“I began to panic,” Jane said. No one had seen him, and he was not in the restaurant. Frightened, Jane quickly scoured the Boardwalk. With the aid of Zach Diogo, general manager of Blackwall Hitch, and other restaurant staff, a search party for Randy Wallis began.
Frantic, Jane showed pictures of Randy to people passing by. Soon, Jane said, “there must have been at least 12 people helping me look for him.”
“We were searching for what felt like hours,” Jane said, “but in reality, it was only about 30 minutes. I was on the verge of calling the police when two women walked toward me, one on each side of Randy. ‘Where have you been?’ Randy asked, ‘I’ve been looking all over for you.’” The two women found Randy wandering on the Boardwalk.
“I wasn’t crying,” Jane said, “I just had tears running down my face.”
Relieved, she told Diogo, “I guess I don’t have reservations anymore,” but, to her amazement, he promptly allowed them to dine at the restaurant for their anniversary. “It was very nice of him,” Jane said. “I can’t thank them enough for everything.”
Jane and Randy Wallis moved to Rehoboth Beach from Pennsylvania four years ago. Jane is a retired nurse; Randy, after suffering from early-onset dementia eight years ago, was forced to sell the campground he owned, Ferryboat Campsites, on the Susquehanna River near the historic Millersburg Ferry landing. “There are probably a lot of people walking around us every day who have dementia, and we don’t even know,” Jane said. “I just want to advocate to help the next person this happens to.
“He’s my best friend,” Jane said. “He’s always been with me. But now he’s not the same.”
Randy enjoys music from the ’60s and ‘70s, movies and history. He can sit and listen to music for hours, but he can no longer sit and talk.
“It’s really hard,” Jane said. Randy can no longer drive, and Jane has told him that his car no longer works, an answer he has not protested. “One of these days I’m going to get one of those Mustangs,” he tells her.
Jane and Randy are taking things one day at a time. “The day after the incident, Saturday, was a horrible day for Randy,” Jane said. “He was disoriented all day. But the next day he was fine and listened to music all day.”
Randy attends the Gull House Adult Activity Center in Lewes Monday thru Friday. Jane goes to meetings at the Lewes Public Library for family members affected by early-onset dementia.
“Thank God I had a picture of him with me that day,” Jane said, “From now on I’m going to take a picture of him every day, so I’ll have a picture of him in his outfit for the day just in case.”