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Saltwater Taffy, Empty Beer Can Save Woods Wanderer

August 6, 1985

WENDELL, Mass. (AP) _ A half-pound of saltwater taffy and an empty beer can used to scoop up water from brooks kept a 79-year-old man alive for seven days in the woods after he became lost while taking a drive in the country.

Two loggers found Arthur L. Harrington, a retired maritime engineer who suffers from hardening of the arteries which sometimes causes him to become disoriented, on Monday near the Quabbin Reservoir at New Salem. They took him to a niece’s home.

″I never thought I’d see him again,″ his niece, Gladys M. Powling of Wendell, said Tuesday. ″I just stood there flabbergasted. I wasn’t very well composed.″

Harrington, who had quadruple bypass heart surgery in November, endured heavy rain and chilly nights without medication for his heart condition.

A medical examination after he was found showed his heartbeat had quickened from lack of medication and he had lost about 10 pounds from his 160-pound frame, but was otherwise in good health, Mrs. Powling said.

All he had with him to eat when he became lost July 29 was a half-pound of saltwater taffy, and Mrs. Powling said he told her he ate all of it on the first day of his ordeal.

″He has quite a sweet tooth,″ she said.

After the taffy was gone, all he consumed was water from brooks, drinking out of a dented beer can he found on his first day in the woods.

″There’s plenty of those out there,″ he said Monday night.

Mrs. Powling’s daughter, Cheryl Richardson, discovered Harrington was missing the morning of July 30 when she checked his trailer.

Police began searching country roads between Erving and Wendell, thinking Harrington might have decided to take a trip to visit his nephew, Calvin Harrington, who lives in Erving, Erving Police Chief David R. Gendron said.

Relatives and friends also searched the area daily, and Erving businessman Claude Jeanloz, who owns an airplane, flew Gendron over Athol, Orange and Wendell on Saturday to look for Harrington, the police chief said.

Harrington recalled Monday that he had left his house trailer, where he lives alone, on the morning of July 29 and went to a bank, a doughnut shop and a gas station before becoming lost while taking a drive in the country.

Harrington’s memory of events after that was hazy. But he said he thought he drove about a half-mile into the woods where his four-wheel-drive vehicle got caught on a tree stump around noon. He left the vehicle to try to find his way out of the woods, but returned the first two nights to sleep in it.

On the third day he was unable to find his way back to the vehicle, and still didn’t remember Tuesday where he had left it.

He had to sleep on the ground then, wearing only two shirts, jeans, work boots and cotton socks in temperatures that dropped to the 50s at night.

To keep warm, Harrington ″sometimes walked at night during the moonlight and slept in the daytime ...,″ his niece added.

″I’m going to have to see if I can restrict him, but I think it’s going to be difficult,″ she added. ″We can’t go through this again.″

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