Frances Green. Image: BPD
Frances Green. Image: BPD

A woman who went missing from the North Berkeley Senior Center on Friday, whose whereabouts were unknown for approximately seven hours, was reunited with her family Friday night after being spotted by an observant passer-by who was on her way home from work, authorities said.

Seventy-year-old Frances Green, who has Stage 4 Alzheimer’s, walked out of the senior center, at 1901 Hearst Ave., and disappeared just before 1 p.m. Friday.

Authorities were alerted to her absence and began keeping watch for her around Berkeley. Police printed fliers with information about Green and distributed them to nearby agencies, and informed community members in the area what to watch out for.

When Green remained missing despite initial efforts, the Berkeley Police Department also sent out an alert via the California Highway Patrol’s “Silver” network — similar to the Amber alert system but for seniors — and activated an alert network connected to the medical response system.

Some residents in the area were also notified by phone via the city’s emergency notification network, BENS. Several tips about possible sightings of Green came in to dispatchers, as well as calls from residents who were annoyed or confused about what the notification meant, and whether it was authentic.

In addition to those efforts, police called in four search dogs from the volunteer Alameda County Search and Rescue team to help try to find Green. Many of her family members responded to the area too, walking nearby Berkeley streets to try to find Green throughout the evening.

Friday night, a downtown Berkeley movie theater employee was walking home shortly after 8, along a route she told police she never takes, when she saw a woman “sitting there all by herself,” said Sgt. Jennifer Tate, who was on duty at the time.

“She had a little hood up, and an empty water bottle,” Tate said. “She looked nothing like we expected from the pictures.”

The movie theater employee had, earlier on Friday, heard police give a verbal description of the missing person, and thought of that when she saw the woman sitting alone. But she wanted to be more certain about the possible discovery before alerting authorities.

She decided to call the movie theater where she worked to ask another employee to remind her of the missing woman’s name. And she asked the woman her name as well. In both cases, the answer was “Frances.” Then she called police.

When Berkeley Police dispatchers — who had been concerned about the woman’s absence for hours — heard the caller report she’d come across an older woman named Frances, they burst into a short round of cheers and clapping.

Tate described the movie theater employee as “the total hero of the night.”

Police quickly responded to the area, and took Green back to meet up with her family. The woman was not able to say where she had been or what she had been doing, due to her medical condition. But she was unharmed and healthy when she was located.

Tate said family members of Green who were with police officers quickly began to alert other relatives that the woman had been found. Some of the family members made those calls from the back of Tate’s patrol car.

“They said, ‘We got her, we got her!’” Tate recalled. “A dozen people showed up to the senior center to greet her. It was truly touching.”

Update: Missing at-risk woman found in Berkeley (03.07.14)

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...