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Draper man reunited with girl who saved his life 70 years ago

SHARE Draper man reunited with girl who saved his life 70 years ago

DRAPER — When 83-year-old, Ileen Barrett met with 71-year-old Draper resident, Doug Bishop, a sense of pride and relief came over her. The boy — now a man — who stood in front of her was happy. He was successful. He was alive.

It had been 70 years since it happened. Barrett, who was 13 years old at the time, was asked to baby-sit 20-month-old Doug and his little sister while their parents were away.

“It was the Fourth of July in 1949, and Doug’s parents went into Delta to get some fireworks ready for an upcoming show,” Barrett said. “I don’t remember if I’d baby-sat for them before, but I remember his dad, Neil, telling me that it was OK for Doug to play in the backyard because there was a fence in front of the nearby canal. I was outside with Doug but had to go inside for a minute to give his little sister a bottle.”

That’s when it happened.

Ileen (Curtis) Barrett holds 20-month-old Doug Bishop in a 1949 photo for a newspaper article in the Millard County Chronicle published on Jan. 14, 1949.

Ileen (Curtis) Barrett holds 20-month-old Doug Bishop in a 1949 photo for a newspaper article in the Millard County Chronicle published on Jan. 14, 1949.

Provided by Elizabeth Hutchinson

“I wasn’t in there for more than two minutes, but when I went back outside, Doug wasn’t there,” Barrett recalled. “I looked up and saw him bobbing in the canal. I climbed the fence as fast as I good and got in the water to get him out.”

Just getting the young boy out presented a challenge for the 13-year-old girl. According to newspaper reports at the time, the water in the canal was between 4 and 5 feet high, and Barrett stood only 5 feet, 1 inch tall. Not only that, but she didn’t know how to swim and knew nothing about CPR or any other lifesaving technique that would help Doug when she got him out.

“He was unconscious when I got him out, but I didn’t know if he was alive,” Barrett said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

That’s when Barrett said that the Lord spoke to her mind what she should do.

“Without knowing what to do, I felt the Lord guide me,” she recalled. “I turned Doug upside-down, shook him, patted him on his back and pushed on his stomach. Finally, he started to cry. I was so thrilled that he started to cry. I then carried Doug through a hole in the fence, which was the hole that he must have crawled through to get to the canal. There was no phone, and the nearest house was a half mile away. I was glad he was OK, but still so scared.”

Barrett said she then gave Doug a bath and put him down for a nap. It wasn’t long after that when Doug’s father, Neil Bishop came home. Later that night, after taking Doug to the doctor to find him in perfect condition, Neil Bishop stopped by Barrett’s house to check on her. She was asleep, but Neil Bishop made sure to tell her parents that they should be proud of their daughter.

A newspaper article on the cover of the Millard County Chronicle on Nov. 17, 1949, shows Ilene Curtis receiving a gold locket from the  American Legion Post No. 117 in recognition of her bravery in rescuing 20-month-old Doug Bishop in July of that year.

A newspaper article on the cover of the Millard County Chronicle on Nov. 17, 1949, shows Ilene Curtis receiving a gold locket from the American Legion Post No. 117 in recognition of her bravery in rescuing 20-month-old Doug Bishop in July of that year.

Provided by Elizabeth Hutchinson

Not long after, Neil Bishop presented young Barrett with an American Legion Award for bravery.

This heroic story was told to Doug Bishop as a child, but he said he didn’t know the extent of it until the meeting 70 years later.

“I had no idea that I had come that close to death,” Doug Bishop said. “It was really neat to meet Ileen and to hear the story firsthand. She told me that she’d been searching for me, and that it was on her bucket list to meet me and see how I’d turned out.”

Learning about Doug Bishop’s life the past 70 years, Barrett said, made her proud.

“Doug told me that he loved to swim, and that he had also been a lifeguard,” Barrett said. “I thought that was really interesting.”

Barrett also learned that over the past 70 years, not only had Doug Bishop enjoyed swimming, he also went on to earn a master's degree in musical theater from the University of Utah. He used this degree to teach theater at Olympus High School for 20 years, was a principal at Tuacahn High School, worked with St. George Musical Theater, and now directs local shows in the Riverton and Sandy area. He and his wife, Robyn Bishop, who also enjoyed a successful career in theater and education, are both retired and enjoying time with children and grandchildren.

Barrett went on to accomplish many things, including raising eight children of her own. It was her daughter, Becky Hutchison, who was able to reunite Barrett and Doug Bishop after a genealogy search conducted by her granddaughter, Elizabeth Hutchison. Both described the meeting to be very important to Barrett, and Barrett agreed.

“It just melted me to know who he was and that good things had happened to him,” Barrett said. “It was really satisfying. He is such a cherished person, and I am so thankful I got to meet him. I know that he’s OK, and I am so proud of him. I couldn’t ask for anything more."