elderly man embracing young girl
Jade Small
Jade Small
December 24, 2023 ·  4 min read

4-Year-Old Girl Asks Elderly Widower at Grocery Store for a Hug, Saves Him from Loneliness

A Secret Life of Mom Highlight Story: Sometimes there are tales that are just too remarkable, too beautiful, or too unbelievable to keep locked away. That’s why we scour the archives and bring some of them back to enjoy again. They may make you smile or shed a tear, but they’re always meant to add a little positivity to your day. Enjoy! 

In 2016, CBS News reported the story of a little girl whose friendship has saved the life of an elderly man going through his darkest times [1]. 82-year-old Dan Peterson from Augusta, Georgia, had been dealing with severe depression after his wife passed, and when he could no longer cope, he felt ready to let go.

A brilliant smile, a loud ‘hello’, and a warm hug were all Dan needed to find hope again.

In one of his worst days, Dan was shopping alone at a grocery store when a little burst of sunshine came into his life. 4-year-old Norah Wood had been shopping with her mom, Tara, and her sister, Marigold. It was her birthday that day and she had so much joy in her heart to give. Thankfully, she gave it all to the person who needed it the most.

“As Mr. Dan walked by, she (Norah) smiled and waved. ‘Hi old person! It’s my birthday!’” said Tara, Norah’s mother to CBS News. “He stopped in his tracks, smiled, and said, ‘Well hello, little lady! How old are you today?’ They chatted for a couple of minutes, and we went our separate ways.”

Norah’s mother had no idea why her little girl had been so drawn to the old man. After all, she has grandfathers, so it couldn’t be that she was missing out on elderly company. There were lots of other people in the store at the time too, but she clicked immediately with Dan, a chance meeting every one of them has been thankful for. It gave the lonely man a reason to be happy again and ultimately saved his life.

 According to Dan, she’d been the “light that just lit me up.”

Forever in their hearts

Dan Peterson and Norah Wood
Dan Peterson and Norah Wood. Image Credit: Tara Wood

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Dan passed away this year, at the age of 86 [2]. Tara and her children were at his memorial service. According to his brother, Jesse, Dan had been “four years late” for his own funeral. He’d been so blank and ready to quit life in 2016, until Norah, now 8, came along and gave him something to hold onto once again.

That day at the grocery store, the little girl later went back to Dan and asked for her picture to be taken with him. And then she demanded a hug.

“I said, ‘A hug?!’  I said, ‘Absolutely!'” Dan said. 

Nora Wood sleeping holding a framed image of her and Dan Peterson
Image Credit: Tara Wood

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Following that incident, Dan continued to receive more love than he had ever imagined. Tara had posted the photo of her little angel and the elderly man on Facebook, and thousands of people reacted with so much love and light to the post. Dan began to receive warm letters of love and hope at his home address, and now, people are sending condolences to Norah. She’d lost a dear friend who held a deeply special place in her heart.

Before Dan passed, Norah had insisted on spending her after-school hours in her friend’s company. A friend of Dan’s had reached out to her mother after their grocery store meeting. 

She knew Mr. Dan and his late wife, Mary. She was the key to us getting in touch,” said Wood. 

Norah and her mom went over to Dan’s house, and of course, she showered him with loving hugs and smiles, genuinely happy to see him again. She even brought him a framed photo of them at the grocery store, something to hold dear to his heart. Over time, Norah began to worry about loneliness creeping back into Dan’s life, and she thought about suggested getting him a dog. In the end, she hand-delivered a cute stuffed puppy she got for him.

“I think it was just humanity at its best: To love and to be loved,” Tara said. The day before Dan passed, Norah and her sister, Marigold visited him. He died surrounded by people who truly loved him, and he went on peacefully.

Dan’s sum-up of his entire encounter with the little angel was: “If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life, I have her to love.”

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  1. This 4-year-old made an unlikely friend at the grocery store.” CBS News. Brittany Loggins. November 18, 2016.
  2. “Humanity” at its finest: Man dies years after young girl’s friendship saved him.” CBS News. Steve Hartman. March 6, 2020.