It was part of Thelma Wideman’s routine. She would drive down to the marina on the Erie Canal in Palmyra, park her car and take her small dog Tucker on a walk along the canal path.
Unfortunately, Thelma had developed another regular occurrence, locking her keys in her vehicle. Several weeks ago Palmyra Police Sergeant Jim Showman was summoned to the marina to unlock Wideman’s vehicle. Showman said Thelma was embarrassed by the key locking incident and said at the time she should probably have just walked home instead of calling for help.
On Saturday (7/23) she at 8:55 a.m., Thelma again parked at the marina and again locked her keys in the car. The incident was caught on a surveillance camera at the Palmyra Marina.
It is believed Thelma, not carrying a cell phone, began the walk home in the sweltering heat and humidity. Police, upon receiving the first call of her possible disappearance on Sunday (7/24), had thought Wideman was somewhere in the vicinity of the canal trails where she was last seen walking her dog, and that is where the search began.
Both State Police helicopters and ground forces had been looking for Wideman and the search was assisted by the Palmyra Police and Fire Departments and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department and the Port Gibson Fire Department.
State Police called off the search for Wideman, age 74, the former Wayne County Emergency Management Director and 31 year retired Wayne County employee, when night fell.
The search continued at first light, with State Trooper Jessie Davis along with his two tracking bloodhounds, covering fields leading towards her residence on Vienna Road in Palmyra.
After several hours, Trooper Davis and his dogs located Wideman’s body in five feet high brush in a field leading behind her home at 3:30 p.m. Her faithful dog, Tucker was still with her. He was not harmed. The cause of death appeared to be natural causes. An autopsy was performed, but the results have not been released.
Thelma will be remembered as a loving mother and best friend to her daughters and a wonderful grandmother and great-grandmother. Mrs. Wideman was predeceased by her husband Bruce in 2004. She is survived by her daughters Debra Hunt and Donna Murray; grandson Mitchell (Erica) Murray; great-grandchildren Noah and Kaylie Murray; sister-in-law Caroline Ginder; very good friends Diane Dickson and Jim DePoint and her beloved and always faithful dog Tucker.
Family and friends are invited to call from 2-4 and 6-8pm on Friday July 29th at the Robert L. Yost Funeral Home, Inc., 123 W. Main St. Palmyra. A graveside service will be held at 10am on Saturday July 30 in Palmyra Cemetery.