DTW worker chronicles adventure with missing Teddy

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

The Amber Alert was brief, but detailed.

Name: Teddy
Sex: nonconforming
Height: approximately 12"
Race: bear
Weight: negligible 
Reward: 8-year-old girl child's undying appreciation

Teddy the stuffed animal went missing Wednesday evening when 8-year-old Eleanor Dewald's family arrived at Detroit Metro Airport from a holiday trip to Texas, according to mom Trish Dewald, 38. The Royal Oak woman posted an "Amber Alert" to her private Facebook page around 9 p.m.

Eleanor Dewald, 8, of Royal Oak is reunited with her Teddy, thanks to Steve Laudeman of Mount Clemens.

Alongside the "Amber Alert" were details on where the bear was last seen — around 6 p.m. Wednesday at the airport's North Terminal — and a picture of an identical, but less worn, bear.

"Teddy was given to Eleanor on the last day of preschool by her teacher. All the kids got that teddy," Dewald said. "So the teddy that was originally posted on my 'Amber Alert,' that was a picture I asked one of the other moms to send me."

Dewald said she also filled out standard airport lost-and-found forms, but the tongue-in-cheek Facebook post brought Teddy home.

Within 10 minutes, a woman tagged 38-year-old Steve Laudeman, a mutual friend from Mount Clemens who works with Southwest Airlines at the airport. Thursday was his 13th anniversary on the job.

"We went to middle school and high school together and we’ve seen him at the airport," Dewald said. "We were at his wedding a few years ago. We’re not super close, but we’re buddies."

Laudeman didn't see the post until Thursday morning, when he woke up for an early shift at the airport.

"I sort of ignored (the post), because it being 12 hours later, I thought (Teddy) wouldn't be there anymore," Laudeman admitted. "But I went into work and had about an hour before I had to do my first job."

With that hour, Laudeman went on a one-man rescue mission. First stop: American Airlines, which had flown the Dewald family into Detroit.

Folks at the airline's baggage counter hadn't seen the bear, and neither had agents in the customer service office.

"As I was walking back down to go to my job, I remembered that Trish had said that their bags came in on Spirit (Airlines)," Laudeman said. "The lady in the there said, 'Oh, there’s one across the way on the trash can.'

"It was just sitting on there on top of the trash can," Laudeman said. "Luckily, it was still there."

Steve Laudeman of Mount Clemens hangs out with Teddy while he works at Detroit Metro Airport.

He hopped on Facebook to share the good news.


The all-caps post at 5:30 a.m. Thursday was paired with a picture of a smiling Laudeman, holding up the long-lost Teddy. But he had a full shift ahead of him, and wasn't done hanging out with the little bear.

"I just decided to take him with me and take some fun photos," he said. "The women at my work thought that it was a really cool idea. ... The guys, on the other hand, all thought that I was silly."

Silly or not, photos poured into Facebook all Thursday morning. They were posted to Laudeman's page, with Dewald tagged in every shot.

Teddy hit the snowy tarmac and visited a cockpit, before taking a moment to warm up inside Laudeman's bright orange safety jacket. Later, the bear reclined inside an airplane engine, grabbed a refreshment, and met some "ladies" at an airport gift shop.

By mid-morning, Teddy had penned a letter to Santa Claus:

Dear Santa, All I want is to be with Miss E. I miss her. -- Teddy

By noon, Teddy was ready to go home.

Thanks to Teddy's chronicled adventures, Eleanor and her mother awoke Thursday to good news.

"I woke up, rolled over, grabbed my phone and one of our common friends had texted me and said to check Facebook," Dewald said. "That's when I saw Steve's face with Teddy sticking out of his jacket.

"And I thought, 'Oh my gosh, he's magic.'"

Mother woke daughter, who slowly absorbed that Teddy was lost no more.

"She said, 'Teddy, oh Teddy,'" according to Dewald. "She's a lot like my husband; she's a child of few words. But (her face lit up) sort of like this slow light bulb."

As Teddy continued his DTW adventures, Eleanor attended her last day of school before Christmas break.

"Then I picked her up and we got some art supplies, because she wanted to make (Laudeman) a card," Dewald said. "She got him little chocolates and I got the family a movie gift card."

The duo then headed out to Mount Clemens to retrieve Teddy.

"I gave it back to Eleanor and her eyes lit up," Laudeman said. "She was happy to have her stuffed animal back; her Teddy. She gave me a handwritten thank you note. ... She’s a sweet little girl."


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