'I call him Patrick Angel': Streamwood man honored for helping stranded driver
Stopping to help snow-stranded motorists with his pickup truck and mechanic skills has been something of a habit Patrick Zambito rarely thinks about, but his selflessness March 1 made a lasting impression on 68-year-old Hoffman Estates resident Toni A.M. Thomas and village leaders.
Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod recently recognized the 2016 Schaumburg High School graduate with the village's Great Citizen Award for not only stopping to assist the stranded Thomas after her car stalled on that winter's evening but also paying for her tow out of his own pocket and refusing to let her repay him.
While Hoffman Estates officials found the 21-year-old's actions noble and heroic, Thomas had many more words for him during the recent award ceremony.
"He's been in my heart every day," Thomas said. "It just shows you, everyone you walk by or drive by ... there's always someone good in that group.
"I call him 'Patrick Angel' because he's so sweet and so kind. We have young people in the world who are so kind. He made the decision to be who he is today," she said.
Zambito, a Streamwood resident who works as a traveling machine repairman for Big Kaiser Precision Tooling in Hoffman Estates, was traveling on Barrington Road about 6:30 p.m. March 1 when he spotted Thomas' 2005 Ford Escape stalled near the ramp to eastbound I-90.
Thomas' repair shop later determined her car had improperly gone into theft mode and behaved as if it was resisting being stolen.
In his big pickup truck with its bright construction lights, Zambito knew he might have been an intimidating sight pulling up behind Thomas' car in the dark and cold.
But that was far from Thomas' impression as she saw her rescuer approaching in her mirror.
"I could see it was a gift coming to me," she said.
She had much praise, too, for the Hoffman Estates police officer who arrived and advised that the car's dangerous location near the ramp required it to be towed within 15 minutes.
When Thomas said the tow service she called would not arrive that quickly and she had no way to immediately pay for a different towing service, Zambito said he would pay. When she asked how she would get home, he offered to drive her. And when she later called him to say the insurance check had arrived with a portion for the tow, he told her to keep it.
"He said, 'Take yourself out for a nice dinner or something,'" Thomas said.
Zambito, whose mother and brother accompanied him to the ceremony, said his job made the towing expense negligible for him.
"To him, it doesn't seem like a big deal," Thomas marveled. "We need more Patricks in our world today."
"I know you didn't really want any notoriety, but you're going to get it anyway," he told Zambito. "This is just an unbelievably great story you don't expect to hear about."
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