December 24, 1997 in Nation/World

Philadelphia Story Of Kind-Hearted Cop Finds Old Woman Dead, Mails Holiday Cards

Joe Clark Philadelphia Daily News
 

Philadelphia Police Officer Aisha Perry had just come on duty when she received an assignment to check on an elderly woman whom a friend had been trying to contact all day.

Perry had gotten dozens of similar calls in the past. It was nothing out of the ordinary - at the time. But it evolved into one of Perry’s saddest, and most tenderhearted, assignments.

Arriving at the house in Philadelphia’s Olney section, Perry discovered the woman, 77-year-old Margaret Taylor, had died of natural causes, a part of the job Perry had experienced many times.

What followed, however, was anything but routine.

Perry took on the responsibility of notifying dozens of people of Taylor’s death and sending them Christmas cards the woman never got a chance to mail.

Perry even finished wrapping and sending a few holiday packages.

Taylor lived alone in a two-story row house. She and her parents had moved into the house more than 60 years earlier. She never married, had no known family left and only a few close friends.

One of those friends, another elderly woman, and Taylor spent the previous day Christmas shopping in a mall. For years, they worked together at a Center City, Pa., department store. Taylor had complained of not feeling well, but she didn’t let it interfere with her shopping. She promised her friend she’d go to the doctor the next day.

She never did.

Taylor was found dead, sitting in a chair in front of a television, “the only new thing” in the house. She had been dead for several hours.

Nearby on another chair was a stack of 41 Christmas cards, addressed and sealed but not stamped. Also on the chair were a few half-wrapped packages. On a table was a picture of Taylor when she was a young woman.

“She was gorgeous,” Perry said.

That night, Perry, who’s been on the force for 4-1/2 years, took the Christmas cards and packages home with her to Northeast Philadelphia. She put stamps on the cards, finished wrapping the packages and mailed them.

Then, in a separate envelope she sent a brief note to everyone on Taylor’s Christmas card list.

“Please be advised that your dear friend Miss Margaret Taylor … has passed away. I found her stack of Christmas cards unmailed and mailed them to each of you. I am sure she would have wanted you to have them. May God bless you and your families.”

Among the several people who answered Perry’s note was Marine Lt. Anthony I. Stills, a former next-door neighbor who had known Taylor since he was 4.

“She was like a grandmother to me,” wrote Stills, now stationed in California. “She brought the goodness out of me.

“I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to do what you did,” he added. “If there were more people like you, this world would be a nicer place for us to live.”

Perry, a mother of two, said she normally tries to distance herself from the job, but after seeing the stack of cards, she knew she had to finish what Margaret Taylor started.

“I felt it was the right thing to do,” Perry said. “I couldn’t imagine me doing anything other than that. I could not leave those cards there unmailed. I just couldn’t. It was so sad.”

“I hope she’s resting in peace.”

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