Police officers quickly become familiar with the homeless individuals on their beats, even if they never have cause to interact. Such was the case for Lawrenceville, Georgia police officer Dena Walker Pauly, who had seen the elderly man she came to know as Bob on her daily patrols. Even though she’d noticed Bob many times, she had never approached him or had reason to.
Then one day, in 2016, Pauly was called to a local pawn shop for assistance. When she arrived, she recognized Bob immediately. Local businesses often call law enforcement to move loiterers along. However, the pawn shop employees explained they didn’t want Bob removed, but that they were concerned for his well being and not sure what to do.
Pauly quickly realized Bob, whose full name was Bobby Lee Broadus, was nonverbal and could not read or write in order to communicate. Later she would learn that a stroke had left him unable to speak and that he had experienced bouts of homelessness since his early teens. Pauly knew she had to go beyond normal police procedure to help the man.
Beyond The Call Of Duty
Broadus was able to communicate to Pauly where he lived, a small apartment he had recently moved into thanks to a government assistance program. Upon entering the apartment, Pauly could see that her new friend needed more than just an escort home. She noted trash piled up around the home, empty cabinets in the kitchen, and basic necessities missing from the bathroom.
The veteran officer went about securing trash removal and toiletries for Broadus, but she knew he needed ongoing support. Nearly 50 years of living on the streets had robbed him of basic self-care skills, like cleaning up and cooking for himself. Pauly took it upon herself to teach Broadus these skills and more, ensuring that he was eating well, taking his medications, and getting to his doctor appointments.
Within a year, Pauly was checking in on her companion daily and became his medical power of attorney so she could become more involved in monitoring his medical issues. Within a few months, it would be more important than ever that she took the time to care for this stranger.
There Until The End
In May of 2019, Broadus was hospitalized for ongoing health issues and his prognosis was not good. Though only in his early 60s, years of homelessness had ravaged his body. Within two months, it became clear that Bobby Lee Broadus would not be going back to his small apartment. Pauly made the difficult decision to bring in hospice care for her beloved friend.
On July 17, 2019, Georgia Law Enforcement announced that Broadus had passed away. “It is with a very heavy heart that we have to report that Bob passed away earlier today. While the end of one’s life is always sad, it is the love and compassion that he received from Officer Pauly that gives us a smile knowing he is now in a much better place.”
The community outpouring of sympathy resulted in a local funeral home offering cremation services for free. Tom Wages Funeral Home also hosted a memorial service for Broadus, where hundreds of locals gathered to pay their respects to the man many only knew through Pauly’s advocacy. Broadus’ obituary noted other local charities that he frequented as places to donate in his memory.
Though Pauly felt a shattering loss after her dear companion passed, she told WSB-2 Atlanta that her mission was complete. “The day I met him, I told him he would have a friend for life,” Pauly said. “And I was there until the end.”
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