The saying "it's a small world" has new meaning for former Ceres resident Michele James.
From the moment James saw Gene Owens on the Memorial Medical Center cardiac care unit, where she works as a nurse, there was a connection. The Ceres resident bears a startling resemblance to James' father, who died when she was 18.
"I pulled up a picture of my dad on my phone and we started a discussion of where I grew up in Ceres," said James, now a Turlock resident. "It turned out that Gene grew up five houses away from me."
The two then shared stories of their childhood homes. The house on River Road where James and her two sisters grew up had been in the family until two years ago. James told Owens about how she had stopped by the old house a few times trying to get in touch with the new owner. A portion of the concrete patio in the back of the house held special memories for James.
When her father poured the patio in June 1967, he had all three of his daughters - who at the time were ages 6, 4 and 1 - put their handprints and names in the wet cement. James was hoping to see that reminder of her childhood at least one more time.
"When she told me that story I thought, that's cool," said Owens.
But once he left the hospital, he felt compelled to run by James' childhood home. Owens had better luck than James, and he was able to catch the new owner at the house.
"God sent me over there to get that concrete for them," Owens said.
Owens not only dug up the 350-pound slab of concrete, he also took the time to chisel away the layers of coating the new owner had already applied in preparation for remodeling to expose the handprints and writing.
Before he could deliver the concrete family memento, Owens had another encounter that proved once again how connected everyone is, even in today's society.
Owens heard through friends of his at Ceres Christian Church about a woman who was selling a motorcycle trailer. When he went to inquire about the trailer, he met what turned out to be James' mother.
"When my mom was a teenager she worked at the Ceres Drive-In and worked for [Gene's] dad, who owned the drive-in," James said. "It's really weird, all these connections."
James' mother also used to babysit Owens when he was a child.
"It shows how small the world is and how God intertwines us," Owens said.
When Owens pulled up at James' Turlock home with the concrete slab that contains one of her fondest childhood memories, James was overwhelmed.
"He pulled up and said, ‘I appreciate what you did for me in the hospital.' I didn't know what to say. It was just really nice," James said.