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Iowa couple who just lost their teen son rescue stranded Moline woman

NASHUA, Iowa — It was well after dark, around 10 p.m., on a lonely stretch of Highway 218 in northeast Iowa when 31-year-old Nicole Bernaix pulled her sputtering Chevy Cruze to the side of the road last Tuesday, June 5th.

Bernaix, a teacher from Moline, was shaken up after having just hit and killed a deer, but she had to keep her wits about her. She was traveling alone and stranded in a rural area three hours away from her destination in Excelsior, Minnesota. With no service, her cell phone was “essentially a paperweight.”

The phone’s flash light still worked though. Bernaix got out of the car to get a closer look at the damage. After ten minutes and several cars passing by, another pair of lights shone in the darkness.

Bernaix refers to them as her “two angels.”

They were Lori and Tim Hake, a married couple from nearby Nashua, Iowa.

Bernaix said that what sounds like the tense premise of a horror movie was immediately eased by the warm demeanor of the Hakes.

“Something just felt right,” she said of trusting a pair of strangers on a lonely road in the middle of the night.

“All we could think of was our own children,” the Hakes told a grateful Bernaix about why they stopped for her.

It was an especially poignant sentiment from parents who had just lost their 17-year-old adopted son, Sam, in a drowning only a week before.

In fact, they were on their way home from planning Sam’s funeral with other family members when they passed by Bernaix and immediately turned around to help.

“They went above and beyond what I expected,” said Bernaix. The Hakes not only invited her to spend the night at their home and drove her to an auto body shop and a car rental in the morning, they treated her to breakfast at their favorite local diner.

Over omelettes and pancakes, the grieving parents and the stranded young mom traded stories about their children, providing each other the comfort they required in their moment of need.

Both Bernaix and the Hakes said the experience has forged a new “friendship for life.”

“You already touched our hearts in the short hours we had,” Tim told Bernaix. “Have a toast to Sam tonight and I will truly understand why our paths crossed.”

As for Bernaix, she said her gratitude for the selfless couple’s hospitality can hardly be put into words, but “The world needs more people like them. It restored my faith in humanity!”

As expected, the Hakes are humble about their act of kindness. “Both Lori and I are big believers in passing it forward,” said Tim. “Teach your kids to pass it on and the world becomes a great place to live.”

The new friends will get a chance to see each other again next week when Bernaix goes to pick up her car from the auto body shop.

A funeral service for Samuel will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, 2018 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City, Iowa.