A confident four-year-old girl approached an 82-year-old widow at the grocery store, forming a life-long friendship that saved the old man from depression and from celebrating holidays alone.
When four-year-old Norah Wood of Augusta, Georgia went to the grocery store with her mom Tara, she didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. She simply planned to buy some birthday cupcakes, but she ended up meeting a friend, instead.
While going around the grocery store with her mom Tara, Norah suddenly came across an old man who looked reserved and serious. “Hi old man!” she greeted him. “It’s my birthday today!”
As soon as the old man heard this, his face lit up. He struck up a conversation with Norah, chatting for a couple of minutes before exchanging hugs.
To Tara, it was a simple 10-minute encounter at the grocery store worth sharing with her friends. However, after she shared the happy memory on the internet, it turned out to be so much more than that – the little girl saved a man from depression.
When Tara posted the photo of Norah and the old man on Facebook, someone recognized him and commented: “That’s the first time I’ve seen that man smile since his wife died.” That comment struck Tara, and prompted her to ask for the man’s contact details so they could meet up with him again.
It turned out that Dan Peterson, then 82, lost his wife a couple of months before the grocery store meetup. He fell depressed after losing his wife, and would often go through days of self-pity. Dan admitted that he was going through one of his days of self-pity when he met Norah.
After finding out his contact details, Tara reached out to Dan to see if he’d be willing to meet up again. With a fresh shave and haircut, Dan invited Tara and Norah into his home.
Since that first meeting, Dan and Norah became inseparable. On Halloween, Norah visited Dan wearing her Minnie Mouse costume. Then, Norah’s mom Tara invited Dan to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with their family.
Dan, whom the family lovingly called “Mr. Dan,” spent Thanksgiving with Norah, her parents, and her six siblings. At the time, Tara warned the old man that he was about to meet quite a number of new faces. Dan didn’t mind, and he was delighted!
Since that day, Dan became an extended member of their family and Norah’s best friend, and it remained that way for years. “If they had never met, I don’t know if he would’ve had anyone to spend Thanksgiving with and that makes me sad,” Norah’s mom said.
When asked about his relationship with Norah, Dan did not mince on words and shared just how special the little girl was to him. He shared:
“She has shown me a depth of love; a depth I didn’t know existed.”
For years, Norah and Mr. Dan became inseparable. Norah, her sister Marigold, and her mom Tara would visit Mr. Dan every Sunday, and they would spend time together doing different activities.
Norah would describe her best friend as “funny.” She also notes that a special part of their time together would be when Mr. Dan would share stories about his childhood, and she would listen intently.
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Through their weekly meetups, Norah has found that Mr. Dan used to be a university professor, teaching mathematics at at least three universities. She also discovered that he used to fly airplanes, particularly as a veteran of the United States Air Force.
Four years after their unlikely meet up at the grocery store, Dan Peterson passed away at the age of 86 in 2020, still feeling all the love from Norah and her family.
Aside from exchanging stories, Norah and Mr. Dan also drew and did puzzles together. Admittedly, it hasn’t only been fun for the young kids, but for the old man as well.
After living life alone after his wife’s passing, meeting Norah was the sunshine Dan needed to brighten his days. He is happy to have the children over, and shared that it had done wonders for him.
One day, Norah brought over some watermelon seeds from her grandfather. She handed them to her good friend Mr. Dan to plant, and while he was hesitant they would ever bloom, they planted it anyway.
After a couple of months, Dan had eight watermelon plants in his garden! “Norah will be able to watch them grow into some big plants,” he shared.
Four years after their unlikely meet-up at the grocery store, Dan Peterson passed away at the age of 86 in 2020, still feeling all the love from Norah and her family. Tara wrote about it on Facebook, sharing that just the day before he died, they had spent the morning with him.
“He was in good spirits, joyful, and happy. He had a belly full of pancakes and a heart full of love,” she wrote. Norah and Tara made sure to attend the memorial service for Mr. Dan, where they were in tears after saying goodbye to their dear friend.
Their touching friendship is one that continues to touch lives around the world, and will be remembered by Norah and her family for the rest of their lives. Their friendship was the best of humanity – showing what it means to love and to be loved.
In his obituaries, it was written that Mr. Dan is survived by his sons Keith and Gary, and his daughters Kerri, Julie, Janie, and Stephanie. He also had 12 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, a brother, two sisters, and of course, his dear friend, Norah Wood.
Like the touching story between Mr. Dan and Norah, click here to read a story about a man who establishes an unlikely 20-year friendship with a woman who kept calling him with the wrong area code.