Sometimes, things just fall into place.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, Carole Kadinger of Menomonie drove to Eau Claire, so her 9-year-old granddaughter could attend a birthday party at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.

Not familiar with Eau Claire streets, the 75-year-old Kadinger studied a map the night before, and she made it downtown to Graham Avenue and then stopped to ask how much farther the museum was. Running late, Kadinger parked the car, and she and her granddaughter rushed off to the birthday party in the cold.

Once the party was over two hours later, grandmother and granddaughter headed back to where Kadinger thought she had left her car. But, it wasn’t there. Panic started to set in when Kadinger couldn’t locate her vehicle.

“I was wondering if my car had been towed, had it been stolen, had I gotten a ticket?” Kadinger recalled. In addition, it was cold, and her granddaughter was ill. “It started to get stressful and scary,” Kadinger said.

Seeing an Eau Claire police officer, Kadinger approached him, waited for him to finish a phone call and then told him couldn’t find her car.

The officer – Art Nelson – asked Kadinger where she had left the car and what kind of vehicle it was. She told him, and he then asked, “Are you Carole?”

Nelson had discovered her car earlier with the key in the passenger door. Kadinger, in her hurry to get her granddaughter to the birthday party, had parked next to a no-parking sign put out for the International Fall Festival. Rather than having her vehicle towed, Nelson moved the car to a nearby parking lot, took the key and left his card under a windshield wiper with his number on it.

He told me, “It wasn’t a good idea to leave your key in the car,” she recalled. “But, he didn’t treat me like a doddering idiot, chew me out or lecture me. He was just so kind, so helpful, so respectful. That’s what struck me the most,” she said of the latter.

Before Kadinger and her granddaughter left, Nelson carefully explained how to get back to Menomonie and moved a barricade, so they could leave.

When Kadinger got onto Interstate 94, she began praying out loud, calming her granddaughter.

Thinking back to that Saturday, Kadinger credits God and Nelson for getting her out of a jam.

Bridget Coit, the Eau Claire Police Department’s public information officer, wasn’t surprised at all to hear that Nelson went out of his way to help someone.

“He really goes above and beyond to help people,” she said.

Nelson joined the department in January 1997, and he enjoys getting out of his squad car and interacting with people.

“I don’t know if it gets better than that,” Nelson said in a Facebook post about him.

— Christena T. O’Brien, reporter