A little help makes a bad Friday the 13th turn good - East Valley Tribune: Columns

A little help makes a bad Friday the 13th turn good

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Mike Sakal’s column runs on Fridays. Contact him at (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com, or write to Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 1620 W. Fountainhead Pkwy., Suite 219, Tempe, AZ 85282

Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 1:26 pm | Updated: 2:21 pm, Thu Feb 9, 2012.

Friday the 13th can make some people wary and worry, but for east Mesa residents Bob and Jean Colfer, a recent passing of that day turned out wonderful thanks to another Mesan, Herman Spier.

On Friday, Jan. 13, when the Colfers started out on their annual trip to visit friends in the Palm Springs suburb of Rancho Mirage, Calif., Bob stopped at a nearby Valero gasoline station to fill the car up. After he paid for the gas with a credit card, he put it back in his brown leather card holder with his driver's license and other personal information, including he and Jean's wedding picture from 58 years ago. But then he left it all on top of the gas pump - and drove on.

It wasn't until the avid Chicago Cubs fans were halfway to their destination - a stop in Blythe for a Coke and a bite to eat, when Bob told Jean, "I left my case on the gas pump in Mesa." Of course, Jean could've thought he was just holding out on her so she would have to pick up the meal ticket, but with the huge problem of identity theft in Arizona, it was faux pas that could've hit their pocketbooks harder.

The Colfers then faced a dilemma. After contemplating whether to drive back home or keep moving forward, they chose the latter. Bob called the credit card companies to cancel the cards, and also called their daughter in Chandler to see if she could retrieve the card holder.

But the card holder already had been picked up at the gas station.

"Panic set in," said Bob Colfer, 82, a Korean War vet and Illinois Bell retiree. "It kind of made for a couple of yucky days. Oh Lord, I'll tell ya, I spent as much time worrying what all was in there and what I was going to have to replace."

Bob and Jean ended their trip early, but when they arrived home on Sunday they saw the light on their phone message recorder blinking.

It was Spier, who happened to live near the Alta Mesa neighborhood. He had called to tell the Colfers he had found the case on top of the gas pump that Friday and wanted to return it.

"When I pump gas, I usually don't look up," said Spier, 56, a contract worker who installs water softeners and water purification systems. "But, for whatever reason that day, I did and saw the money pouch. I saw the credit cards and tried to look for some kind of ID. I didn't want to leave it at the gas station."

Although Spier saw where the Colfers lived from Bob's driver's license, he had to do a little detective work to call them - he discovered the phone number on an auto shop sheet from where Bob recently had the car serviced. He initially thought that was where Bob worked. So, Herman called the shop, who in turn provided him with the number to reach the Colfers.

Soon after the Colfers returned home on Sunday evening, Spier drove over to their house and gave Bob's card holder to him. The card holder, which also contained Bob's military service card in it, was as he had left it.

When Bob and Jean lived in Chicago, he said he never carried cash when he rode the Lake Street L Train.

"It was quite a relief," Bob said of getting his holder back. "I was thinking about how I was going to have to replace my Medicare card, my health insurance card and everything else. Now, everything's back to normal. I'm grateful."

Jean Colfer, who works as a volunteer in the Mesa Police Department's media relations office, said Bob had never done anything like that before. Bob said that when he was having trouble getting the pump to accept his credit card and then not print a receipt, it frustrated him, causing him to lay his card holder on top of the pump and then forget to take it.

"When we got it back, it sure gave us peace of mind," Jean said.

Spier said that the Colfers wanted to give him money for returning the card holder, but he politely declined.

"I told them, ‘nah,' you might need to do the same for someone sometime. What I did was nothing really special, but I thought it was a good thing to do. I think his livelihood was in there."

It might have been nothing special for him, but it was something special for the Colfers.

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