Real Name: Ella (last name unrevealed)
Case: Lost Nanny/Friend
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Details: Jackie Cooper is a part-time teacher living in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. She is looking for her former nanny, an African-American woman named Ella, who taught her many important lessons about life in the racially tense South during the 1940s. Ella was hired by Jackie's parents in 1939 when she was born. She was there from the time Jackie was brought home from the hospital. When her parents were away, Ella cared for her as though she was her own child, giving her the stable and predictable love a child needs. She always felt safe, protected, and special when she was with her. Even though it was the young years of Jackie's life, Ella encouraged her to go to school, draw, and paint. She recalled that Ella also had a very positive outlook on life.
As an African-American woman living in the south during the 1940s, Ella was forced to endure the humiliating laws of segregation. Even as a child, this troubled Jackie. She recalled Ella having to drink from the "Coloreds only" fountain but did not understand why. Ella told her that she had to, because she was a "colored person". She said, "God made us the same on the inside, but created our skin a different color." However, she also made light of the situation, saying that it would be "boring" if everyone was the same.
Along with learning about race, Jackie learned important lessons about human dignity from Ella. She vividly remembered the bus trips they would take to downtown Atlanta, often to meet her mother who worked at J.M. Highs department store. Normally, Ella would have to sit in the back of the bus. However, since she was with Jackie, she was allowed to sit in the "Whites only" section. People would give them uncomfortable stares and glances, but Ella remained calm and would try to keep Jackie that way as well. As an adult, Jackie realized what courage Ella had to not be bothered by others' opinions.
When Jackie was five, Ella decided to go north to further her education. On the day she left, she came to Jackie's home to say good-bye to her. Ella was visibly upset and told Jackie that she loved her. Sadly, it was the last time they would ever see each other. As an adult, Jackie realized how much of an impact Ella had on her life and through the years questioned other family members about her last name and whereabouts to no avail, though they all remembered her. One time during a terrible thunderstorm, as the family ate, before her father took Ella home as he often did, Ella threw herself on top of Jackie, as the power went out and a burned place was seared around the dining room window.
When Jackie was forty-five, her mother confessed to her that through the years Ella had sent gifts, sought to continually reach her to communicate, and inquired about her well being. One gift got through to Jackie, of which she was so proud - a little watch, with a red band, which she proudly displayed to her friends, but her mother took it away, saying that she had "bragged too much and to the wrong people". This was heartbreaking for her. At the time of the broadcast, Jackie was desperately trying to find Ella and reunite with her, since she was the only healthy mother figure Jackie was ever to have in her life. She wanted so much to thank and just love her, as she deserved.
Little was known about Ella, including her last name, and Jackie, at that time, had no photos of her, however, she did draw a sketch of her from memory. Through her description, a composite artist made one of what Ella would look like in her seventies. She married a black doctor and moved to either Rochester, New York or Baltimore, Maryland. She also had a daughter who died around the age of nine.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 21, 1990 episode.
Results: Solved. Through prayer and unending effort Jackie and her husband were able to connect with Ella with the help of the people in the nursing home in St Louis where she now resided at 91. They were reunited and remembered each other. They had a little over one year together. She then passed away smiling at the flowers sent by Jackie and her husband.