Mary Alice Harned died the morning of Dec. 18 at the wheel of her car outside the Hickman Mills post office, where she had gone to mail Christmas packages.
At 88, the retired social worker still drove a Toyota Tercel that she bought in 1985 and lived in her own home, according to her son Booth Harned.
But on this morning Mary Alice Harned could not complete her task. Beside her in the car she left three packages, wrapped and ready to post.
The packages were found by Sgt. Deb Randol of the Kansas City police. Randol, who routinely responds to violent traffic accidents, on this occasion found an opportunity for holiday kindness.
Randol took the packages into the post office and put them in the mail.
The addresses on the packages led Randol to Mary Alice Harned’s sons, who thanked her for helping complete the errand.
“It still brings a tear to my eye to think about it,” Booth Harned, 57, said Thursday.
Mary Alice Harned had been diagnosed with an aneurysm that could be fatal at any time.
Given that knowledge, she had continued with her life. In retirement, she had run a picture framing business from her home. Her woodworking skills dated to high school in Springfield, when, as family history tells it, her mother fought to get Mary Alice into shop class — something unusual then for a girl.
Later in life, Harned lived alone. She often spent the holidays with Booth, a pharmacist living in Peculiar. The packages she had taken to the post office included some homemade fudge for her other son, McDonald Harned in Minnesota, and gifts for her nieces in Hawaii and California.
Booth Harned said he was grateful to the police officer who “understood this 88-year-old woman, independent to the end, could not finish what she set out to do.”