April 25, 2014

Elyria
Intermittent clouds
54°F
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Family wants to thank traveler who donated seat

ELYRIA — On a day when people often pause to count their blessings, one local family has a very special reason to be thankful, and they owe it to a person they don’t even know.

“We’re just amazed at this lovely lady,” Regina Bialas, 28, said Wednesday. “She has no idea what she did for my grandmother and my uncle. We just want to say thank you to this woman. It really meant a lot to us.”

This as-yet-unidentified Elyria resident gave up her seat this past weekend on an overbooked flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Cleveland so Bialas’ grandmother, Mary Lou Hamper, 79, could get from her Florida home to Lorain County in time to see her son, Bobby Jenkins Sr., one last time.

The 58-year-old truck driver had been battling cancer for a few years, and he wasn’t expected to live much longer. Jenkins died a few hours after Hamper got to his side Saturday night.

“I was not even sure he would hold out that long,” Bialas said.

Bialas is still a bit stunned to think that the near-miraculous turn of events occurred over the course of a single day.

“I just got a bizarre inkling to order Grandma a ticket from Florida, and I did,” Bialas said. “You cannot be so selfish to watch somebody go through so much pain. … I knew my grandmother had to come.

“He was suffering so horribly. I had to get her here. I just knew he was hanging on to see his mom.”

During a layover in Charlotte, Hamper’s plane was overbooked, and there was no seat available for her.

Hamper pressed her case to a stewardess, telling her she had a family emergency and had to make the flight. The stewardess explained the situation in an on-board announcement, asking if anyone would be willing to give up their seat.

That’s when a female passenger stepped forward to offer her seat.

“This lady was from Elyria, but my grandmother didn’t get her name,” Bialas said. “She was so happy to get on the plane. She said ‘God bless you,’ and went on.”

Bialas and her sister-in-law, Donna Campanalie, a Grafton resident, are still amazed by it all.

“She just willingly gave up her seat and her time going home and didn’t have a clue what was going on,” Campanalie said.

Hamper got to spend the last two hours with her son, who was not awake when she arrived.

“It’s my understanding that when he heard her voice, a tear came out of the corner of his eye,” Bialas said.

Jenkins is survived by three sons and two step-children.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.