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Column: Angel from Starbucks brews up caring for man suffering from stroke

Theresa Trujeque, right, thanks Starbucks manager Kristine Koziar with flowers and a gift certificate on Friday for coming to the aid of her husband, Gary Taylor. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — He doesn’t remember what happened, how he and his RV ended up smashed against a pole and a car in a Starbucks parking lot.

He remembers sitting in his RV for a long time but little else.

Ah, but Gary Taylor’s wife remembers it all – what she knows of it, anyway – when her husband was missing for seven terrorizing hours March 8 until she learned he had suffered a stroke.

Until she learned about the angel from Starbucks.

“She is one of the nicest persons you can imagine,” Theresa Trujeque said about Kristine Koziar, the angel and manager of the Starbucks on Gibson SE where Taylor’s RV came to rest. “She really cared.”

It happened so fast and then so slowly. Taylor, 82, was running late for a 9 a.m. appointment to purchase a cover for the couple’s motor home awning. Trujeque estimates that he should have arrived at Tony’s RV Service off Gibson SE around 9:30 a.m.

“I called him at 11 a.m. after he didn’t get back and again at 1,” Trujeque said. “No answer.”

At 3:30 p.m., the couple’s nephew called the RV shop and learned that Taylor had never made it there.

What had been growing concern blew up into panic.

“I kept imagining all kinds of scenarios,” Trujeque said. “I wondered if he had been robbed, if he was hurt, what was going on. We didn’t know where the RV was. We didn’t know where Gary was.”

She kept calling his phone.

Finally, sometime after 4 p.m., someone answered. But it wasn’t her husband.

“It was a doctor in the ICU,” she said.

That’s how she learned that Taylor had suffered a stroke nearly two hours before.

But how it had all unfolded remained a mystery until the family was able to find the RV and Koziar.

Taylor must have sensed something was wrong when he exited Interstate 25 and abruptly pulled over in front of the Starbucks, less than a mile from the RV shop.

It was a dangerous location, with road construction around the motor home and the whoosh of cars rounding the freeway exit onto Gibson behind it.

Taylor, helpless, motionless, sat there in that treacherous spot for more than four hours, with no one stopping to check on why the RV was there, until just after 2 p.m. when it inexplicably rolled backward into the Starbucks parking lot, striking a pole and a parked car.

Koziar came running, assisting the dazed man, helping him out of the RV and staying with him, comforting him until paramedics arrived.

“What I did was just what I hope most humans would do in the same circumstance,” she said.

It was Koziar who alerted paramedics that Taylor was also a diabetic, noticing that he wore an insulin pump.

“The paramedics thought the pump was a phone holder,” Trujeque said.

After police and paramedics had come and gone, Koziar locked up the motor home and held onto the keys for safekeeping until someone showed up to reclaim it.

“She could have just left the keys and the RV unlocked,” Trujeque said. “But she cared.”

Taylor continues to recover from the stroke. He suffered no permanent paralysis or loss of speech and was moved this week to a rehab center.

His memory of what happened, though, remains a blank screen. His brain is still healing, his wife said.

Also this week, a get-well card arrived for him from Koziar.

“We are thinking of you and hope you’re doing well,” she wrote. “Sending so many hugs and well-wishes.”

Koziar explains that she is a “card person,” sending them out to people to bring them the little joys a simple greeting card can bring.

“I felt such an attachment to Gary because of what happened,” she said. “It’s just a normal thing.”

On Friday, Trujeque and members of her family brought a card of their own, complete with a generous gift certificate, for Koziar to show their thanks for what she did for a stranger in need.

“When somebody is kind that way, you want to reward them,” Trujeque said. “In today’s world, with people mad at each other and people going about their private lives being gunned down, how refreshing it is to know that some complete stranger actually cares about my husband.”

That’s just what angels do. I suspect this one also makes a mean venti iced caramel macchiato.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, jkrueger@abqjournal.com, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.

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