Berenice Benson has seen a lot of places in her life. But she’s always regretted never visiting New York City. Now 85 and living with dementia in an Australian nursing home, Benson can no longer travel to New York. But last week she got the next best thing: a visit from a New York City police officer.
Jo Sumner, who coordinates leisure and wellness at Benson’s nursing home, often asks residents one thing they always wanted to do. Benson answers by saying how much she’d love to meet an actual New York City policeman.
“Just the idea of strolling through the streets of New York and asking a policeman for directions to the nearest coffee shop,” she says.
At least part of Benson’s wish was granted last week when Detective Howard Shank strolled into her nursing home in full uniform to surprise her.
“I don’t know about coffee, but I can show you where all the best doughnuts are,” Shank, who’s spent 33 years at the NYPD, said to Benson as he greeted her.
Shank and Benson ate lunch together and enjoyed a stroll around the nursing home grounds. He then presented her with an NYPD scarf he says came “all the way from the streets of Manhattan.”
Benson was also able to don Shank’s blue police cap. She said the whole experience made her feel like she was 20 years old again.
“I never married and I never had children but this excitement, this has been the best day of my life,” said Benson.
Shank, who took the time to see Benson while he was visiting Australia, admits it was an unusual request, but one he was happy to oblige.
“I lost my father to Alzheimer’s, so being here, (it’s) a bit emotional,” said the detective. “But I’ve seen a lot and done a lot and this is one of the better moments in my career.”