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Good deed inspires Thanksgiving gratitude

Dana Gay, of Foothill Flowers in Grass Valley, works on a floral bouquet Wednesday that will be delivered to Larry and Sandy Fink today.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

A good deed performed by a pair of good Samaritans on a frigid winter’s night on a lonely highway 27 years ago made such a deep impression on a Yuba City couple that the event has had ramifications still present today.

In the winter of 1986, Larry Fink, a California Highway Patrol officer stationed in Grass Valley, lit out from western Nevada County eastbound on Highway 20 with his wife, Sandy.

The couple was headed to Reno to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary and had to leave after Fink clocked out of his patrol shift at 11 p.m.



With Larry driving, the couple carefully made its way on the dark and winding road, the temperature dropping precipitously as the road gained in elevation.

After reaching Bear Valley, about 5 miles from the intersection with Interstate 80, Larry noticed a Cadillac stalled on the shoulder of the road, filled with what seemed like senior citizens.




Larry told his wife he felt they should stop and make sure the occupants of the stranded car were all right. Sandy demurred, fearful due to the combination of the late hour, the bitter night air and the dark and remote nature of the road.

But Larry insisted.

What followed would mean the Finks would not reach Reno that night to celebrate their wedding anniversary. But they would indelibly engrave themselves into the hearts of a family that would use Thanksgiving Day — a day sanctified to celebrate gratitude — to express their steadfast appreciation.

Stranded in the dark

Randy Hubbard, a resident of Yuba City, had been with his wife in Reno with their stepson and another relative. They left later than usual in an effort to get home at a decent time.

When they rolled their sedan off the Interstate 80 exit ramp onto Highway 20, the clock was approaching midnight.

When their car broke down suddenly, Hubbard knew the hour, location and weather made for a situation fraught with danger.

“There was not much traffic,” he said. “What traffic there was wasn’t stopping.”

In 1986, there were no cell phones, so Hubbard made a decision after nearly two hours of sitting in the broken-down vehicle hoping for help. He got out and began the approximately 20-mile trek on foot toward Nevada City.

Unbeknownst to Hubbard, who was trudging westbound along the road, Larry Fink opted for kindness over convenience and employed a dash of ingenuity that would result in the Hubbard family’s improbably swift rescue.

Fink had spent his career in the CHP and, as such, had more than a passing familiarity with broken-down vehicles on the side of the road.

Upon stopping and assessing the situation, he quickly diagnosed the problem — a failed alternator — and devised an immediate solution.

Fink had a 1961 Chevy, so the engine could still run without the battery. He extracted his serviceable battery from his car and placed it in the broken down Cadillac so the car could start.

As soon as both cars were running, they headed in tandem to Nevada City, scooping up Hubbard, who had made it nearly five miles in the interim.

The two cars swapped batteries all the way back to Nevada City, where Hubbard was able to secure the help he needed to continue on his way home.

‘The Lord sent me Larry’

In most instances, this is where the story would end. But for this particular incarnation of the good Samaritan tale, the beneficiaries of the help exerted themselves in an effort to display their deep gratitude toward the Finks, who forwent their anniversary celebration to help strangers.

On the Thanksgiving Day that immediately followed the fateful winter night, the Finks heard a knock on their door, opened it and received an enormous bouquet of flowers addressed to them from the Hubbard family.

What totally flummoxed the Finks is that they never shared their personal information with the Hubbards, apart from Larry divulging his first name and the fact that he worked for the highway patrol.

It is not exactly easy to get the address of a highway patrolman for obvious reasons, meaning the Hubbards had to engage in strenuous investigation to execute their display of goodwill.

Hubbard said he and his wife, Evelyn, used Foothill Flowers, owned by Maria and Mark Johnson, who retain an extensive knowledge of the community and knew how to get the bouquet to the Finks on Thanksgiving.

While most would’ve deemed the initial show of gratitude sufficient, the Hubbards have persisted in their thanksgiving, sending the Finks a large bouquet of flowers every Thanksgiving Day for the past 27 years.

“They haven’t missed a single one,” said son Jarret Fink.

Larry Fink was not interviewed for this story because his son wanted its appearance to come as a surprise for his parents, whom he said have always and consistently exhibited the kind of generosity, sacrifice and willingness to help others that they exemplified on that winter day a quarter-century ago.

While the Finks’ gesture is a symbol of kindness, the Hubbards’ actions embody gratitude, and they aptly elected to show it on a holiday dedicated to it.

One thing is clear, on Thanksgiving Day, Randy Hubbard never forgets to be grateful toward those magnanimous strangers who rescued his family from a dire situation.

“It was so cold that night and I was very frightened,” Hubbard said.

“I knew that help had to come from somewhere, and the Lord sent me Larry. We (send them flowers) for their remembrance. It’s to let them know that what they did was precious in our hearts. That ordeal and the kindness of Larry and Sandy have never left my mind.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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