Len Vertefeuille was born and raised into a loving family on the East coast. He now lives in North Carolina and he and his wife Lisa have two children who mean the world to Len. He has been working in the Warren Wilson College kitchen since 1989. Len enjoys cooking for and working alongside students where the atmosphere is continuously changing. He is always delighted at how stimulating the “kids” are. (They’re all “kids” to Len). “You don’t get different and new things in a restaurant like you do working here.”
The students are as equally thrilled to see Len serving lunch every day. “He’s such a nice guy and he cares so much about his family – his immediate family, his extended family, and his ‘other kids’," says one student who has worked beside him.
One hot 95 degree summer afternoon in Asheville, the family made a quick stop for groceries at the Ingles supermarket. Lisa makes sure that Len’s outside-of-school life is not entirely about cooking, but they do enjoy grocery shopping together. As Len parked, Lisa climbed out of the truck onto the black, sweltering pavement and heard the faint cry of an infant. Turning around she noticed an elderly man peering through a car window. He looked up at Lisa and murmured, “There’s a baby in this car.”
Lisa and Len saw what was troubling the man. Inside of the car was a screaming baby boy, his face was a brilliant red - flushed from the heat. With the steaming heat of the day and the windows closed tightly, the temperature was well over 100 degrees in the interior. And no one knew how long the he had been trapped in there.
Len frantically tried all of the doors and windows. “It’s going to die if you don’t do anything!” the elderly man started to panic.
Len grabbed a tie rod from the back of his truck. Glass shattered and the sound of the infant’s cry amplified. Len reached in from the broken front window and unlocked the back door to free the baby.
Lisa retrieved the baby from the back seat and took him into the safety of the air conditioned store. The police and EMS arrived within minutes and all parties involved, except the unknown guardian of the baby, began to cool.
Thirty minutes had lapsed between when the Vertefeuilles freed the baby to when the mother obliviously walked out of the store to see her broken car window and her six month old baby in another woman’s arms. A look of complete shock crossed her face and the first words that came out of her mouth were, “My baby, I forgot my baby!” The little boy’s clothes were soaked through with sweat but he was safe. Eventually he was taken to the hospital for further tests and his mother was taken in for questioning.
Although in a situation like this it is easy to point fingers, Len did not jump to conclusions or blame the mother for her negligence. He merely stated, “Kids always come first. Even when you don’t have them, you’re thinking about them.”
I asked Len what was going through his mind when all of this occurred. His response was simple. “A million things cross your mind when something like that happens. I put myself in his situation. It was a helpless baby and I was scared for it.”
Who knows what could have happened to that six month old baby or his mother had the story taken the similarly tragic turn we’d all read about in the papers. The citizens of Asheville, North Carolina, however, can sleep a little better knowing that there are courageous people in the world like Len. At the end of our interview he simply smiled humbly and said, “God just put me in the right place at the right time.”
Thank you Len, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2008 by Rachel Hoffman and Story of My Life®