N.C. man's initials used to beat amnesia

Aug. 13, 2012 at 3:43 PM
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MCDOWELL, N.C., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- A North Carolina man who lost his memory while on vacation said he used clues like the initials inside his wedding ring to find his family.

Hugh Armstrong, 72, told ABCNews.com he was vacationing in New Hampshire when he apparently slipped and fell while taking a walk on the morning of July 25. When he awoke, it was dark and he didn't know who he was.

Armstrong said he made up a name but knew his initials because they were engraved on his wedding band. He worked a couple of days on farms in Pennsylvania and Virginia, stayed in an abandoned barn and cheap motels, and hitchhiked his way south.

One truck driver told him he thought Armstrong was from North Carolina and started reeling off the names of towns.

"When he said Asheville, I said, 'That's it,'" Armstrong told ABCNews.com.

Along the way at a McDonald's restaurant, he heard a mother call her daughter Emma "and that rang a bell," said Armstrong, who has a granddaughter named Emma in Wilmington, N.C. Then when he heard someone on television mention a .410 shotgun, he was able to unearth an address and send a letter in which he said, "I don't know who I am, but hopefully you will."

Finally on Aug. 10, a sheriff's deputy spotted him walking along a highway in McDowell, N.C., about 230 miles from his home in Clayton.

WLOS-TV, Asheville, reported Armstrong gave the deputy a name but said he wasn't sure whether it was his name.

"He was very confused," Deputy Jacob Crowder said.

Deputies used the initials and date engraved in Armstrong's wedding band to check the missing persons database to determine his identity.

"When they told me that they had my husband and had compared his pictures, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't believe it,'" Armstrong's wife Ellen told ABCNews.com. "I talked to my husband. It was him. He knew my name and my middle name."

Doctors determined Armstrong suffered a mild concussion.

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