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The Johnson family of Cambria Heights breathed a bit easier over the weekend after their patriarch was found in Harlem, where he owned a TV repair shop until three years ago.
They had just spent three traumatic days worrying what had happened to 69-year-old Orbie Johnson, who disappeared Feb. 1 after going to put his car in a parking lot around the corner from Family Court in Lower Manhattan.
Adele Johnson, 71, told her husband to park his car and meet her in Family Court, where they were registering as the foster parents of their granddaughter.
"My mother went up to the offices and my father drove to the garage," said Valerie Steele, their eldest daughter. "It was full and he drove to another garage looking for space and became frustrated when it was full."
Steele said somehow her father's frustration forced his blood sugar to rise, which caused him to become confused and disorientated because he is a diabetic.
Adele Steele had gone to the court offices at 8:30 a.m. and came back down at 10:30 a.m. concerned about what had happened to her husband. She waited for him until 4 p.m. in front of the court building, her daughter said.
"My parents depend on each other, my mom will not do anything without my father," said Steele. "My father will not eat until Mom serves him. They are old-fashioned."
After waiting in vain for hours for her husband, Adele Johnson took a train for the first time in 38 years, and when asked why she did not take a cab, she said she did not want to waste the money.
When she got home, Adele Johnson called her nine children to tell them what had happened and to ask what she should do.
Steele said she called the 1st Precinct in Manhattan and told them that her father, a diabetic, had wandered off after he dropped off her mother. She said the police were helpful, but told her to call the 105th Precinct, which covers Cambria Heights.
The officers at the 105th Precinct told Steele that normally missing persons cannot be reported for 24 hours but because her father was old and diabetic they would start the search right away.
"The police picked me up and we drove around for two hours, but it was to no avail," she said.
Two days later after the frantic family still had not heard anything, fear began to set in that Johnson had not been able to take his insulin, which he did not have with him when he disappeared.
Crying hysterically, Steele called her boss, Dr. James Blake, who suggested the family go to the media. She said Blake also called in the help of Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, who is from southeast Queens.
Steele said when Washington got involved, things started to move at lightning speed. She said the police called constantly, giving the family updates and asking about how her mother was doing.
At some point during the second day Steele's father called the family.
"My dad called my sister on the second day telling her he was at the Getty and had eaten some sugar," said Steele. "That is when he became really delusional."
At 3 a.m. Friday morning the police came upon a man sitting in his car in Harlem who matched the description of Johnson. Steele said they approached with caution and sure enough it was Orbie Johnson in his car. The Johnsons used to live in Harlem and he owned a business in the neighborhood.
"It was like Christmas when they brought my daddy home," said Steele. "I am 50 and it feels like Christmas all over again."
Johnson was taken to the hospital so that his blood sugar could be monitored and was expected to return to his Cambria Heights home Wednesday.
"The New York Finest is all right," said Adele Johnson. "They were so gentle it made me cry about how much effort they put in. I am happy my husband made it home safe."
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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