UPDATED 8:40 p.m.
VILLA GROVE — James Hanley of Peoria was making his way through row after row of tall corn stalks southeast of Villa Grove with a team of 15 other volunteer searchers from several Illinois communities about 3:40 p.m. Tuesday when he suddenly saw what looked like a white sock glistening in the 82-degree sunshine.
Hanley, a member of the Peoria County sheriff’s search and rescue team, ran to the location and found Carl E. Martin, a 76-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease who had been missing for nearly 23 hours.
“He was lying down on the ground between two rows of corn,” Hanley said. “He was conscious, but he wasn’t able to talk to us.”
Douglas County sheriff’s Lt. Clint Howard said Martin was discovered about a quarter mile from the nearest road and about a mile from his home.
Emergency medical technicians were rushed to the field and used a backboard to carry Martin to an ambulance, which took him to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana for treatment, Howard said.
Martin was listed in good condition on Tuesday night.
“The family was excited and wanted to thank everyone involved in the search and the community involvement that was shown in support of them during this event,” Howard said.
Hanley credited teamwork for the discovery of the missing Villa Grove man.
“It was really hot out there, and the corn in that part of the field appeared to be about 7 feet tall,” Hanley said. “I don’t think you could find him by yourself. It took all of us working together to find him. This was a team effort. I just happened to be the first person to see him.”
Lt. Mark Molleck, leader of the Peoria County sheriff’s search and rescue team, said his organization was launched in February after an Alzheimer’s patient wandered away in the Peoria area.
The group has 16 trained people, with four of them assisting with the effort in Douglas County on Tuesday.
According to Howard, Martin had been sitting on a patio outside their home at 37 Hancock Drive on Villa Grove’s east side when Martin’s wife, Lynn, went inside the house at about 5 p.m. Monday to get some tea.
“When she came back out of the house, he was gone,” Howard said.
The Villa Grove Police Department then asked the Douglas County search and rescue team to help find Martin, and other organizations soon joined them.
Martin was wearing a gray T-shirt with his named embroidered on the pocket, blue jeans and white socks, but no shoes.
Hanley said he remembered that Martin wasn’t wearing shoes, so he specifically was looking for white socks as he and his team moved through the corn stalks.
Howard said more than 200 people from at least eight search-and-rescue teams, at least 20 fire departments, the Douglas County and state emergency management agencies, the Villa Grove Police Department, Douglas County sheriff’s office, state police and others helped with the effort to find Martin, with the workers and volunteers staging near a command post at Henson Park.
According to Howard, a helicopter flew over rural fields, and the state police brought an airplane to Douglas County to help look for the missing man from above.
One search-and-rescue team brought an Argo eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle to move up and down the Embarras River in an effort to find Martin.
Howard said one man drove a John Deere chemical spreader through a rural Villa Grove soybean field, with five search-and-rescue people sitting on it over rows of soybeans looking for Martin.
The Illinois Search Dogs organization and other people brought their dogs to Villa Grove in an effort to sniff out the missing man, and equestrian teams rode horses to look for the man near waterways and areas of unsteady terrain.
In addition, Howard said the Red Cross worked with Villa Grove Mayor Thelma “Boots” Blaney and area churches to provide food for the searchers and emergency personnel.
“They called the churches and used phone trees asking folks in the community for help providing food,” Martin said. “Then people from the various churches started showing up at the park to drop off pies and cakes and other items.”
Howard said as many as 100 volunteers helped provide food and drinks for those involved with the search.