ALICE, Texas — About four months ago, Gracie and Russel Gruber of Alice, made the trip to Odem to purchase a small statue.
A statue of St. Francis, standing about 2 feet high, used to be seen next to the water fountain in their front yard.
“Last Friday I was mowing grass and I noticed it was gone," said Russel. I went back to my cameras and found out that three people came to the house at 2 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday morning(... )and they hauled it off in a, looked like a Ford Eco Sport with a gate hatch."
Never mind that the statue weighs 225 pounds. This statue meant more than just a decoration in front of the Gruber household.
“We put it next to the house here, for her to view. So when she comes out on her bench it’s there for her to look at and worship and do her prayers,” said Russel.
On Oct. 12, 2018, Gracie was diagnosed with cancer. After a number of treatments over the years, she was cancer free, but for only two months.
Nov. 18 of this year, Russel said they returned to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, thinking they were going to give Gracie a new chemotherapy treatment.
Instead, she was told there weren't any more doctors could do. They started her on hospice care.
Russel said they gave her three weeks to live. But, she passed that mark up last Thursday.
Russel said St. Francis was the only one she asked for during her time being treated for cancer. It's special to her because it relates to the animals the couple rescued.
“Her faith is very strong and she knew that we love animals and she wanted St. Francis that stood for the protection of the animals," he said. "We started the rescue 18 years ago.”
Russel took his own time, searching day and night, for the missing statue. He engraved his name under the bird's tail on the statue.
A few days after the statue was stolen, Alice Police Chief, Eden Garcia, called Russel to tell him he was coming over with news.
Russel thought he may have found the people who stole the statue.
The Grubers weren’t expecting to be surprised with a new St. Francis statue.
“About 10 officers showed up with a priest and they drove to Odem to pick up the statue and bring it back to my wife and had it blessed,” Russel said holding back tears.
Russel added he and his wife were moved by the surprise from Alice Police, Gracie’s ex-husband Rene Munoz and a friend of his, Louis Lopez.
The Grubers got another surprise Thursday morning.
Russel looked out the window and didn't see the statue by the waterfall. He heard a noise and thought it was being stolen again.
Actually, some of his landscaper friends moved the statue to the corner of the house where the Grubers really wanted it. Then they cemented it in place, to prevent it from being stolen again.
“This is what Alice is all about, we care about each other. We’re always out there helping each other,” Russel said.
The Alice Police department didn't want to take any credit but Russel said this wasn't possible without them.
Russel has praised the police for cracking down on thefts. In the past week, three people were arrested for car thefts in Russel's neighborhood.