ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — A powerful exchange between a father and a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper all started as a routine traffic stop along Interstate 85 in Rowan County.
This past March, Dr. Ashlye V. Wilkerson, of Columbia, was traveling back from Durham, North Carolina, where her father had been receiving chemotherapy for Stage 4 colon cancer. The self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” would often make the four-hour trip with her father, though this time she traveled alongside her mother and two young daughters.
“We were in the middle of one of our jam sessions,” Wilkerson said, when she noticed a blue light and sirens. She’d been pulled over for speeding.
This traffic stop would prove to be anything but routine.
Wilkerson said how her father, Deacon Anthony Geddis, was among the first to speak when the trooper approached her car, hoping to protect his daughter.
His body and voice were still weak following his treatment.
“He cleared his voice and said ‘this is my baby girl,’” she said. “She’s driving me back home from treatment where I had chemo at Duke University.”
Trooper Jaret Doty initiated the stop in the Salisbury area and said the admission immediately resonated with him.
“At that time I knew there is no way I’m writing this lady a ticket,” Doty said. “I had to sit in (my car) for a while just to compose myself to figure out what to say when I went back.”
When he returned to the car, Doty, normally a private man, shared his own testimony before asking if he could pray with their family.
Doty, a husband and father himself, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2013, which he said returned “with a vengeance” in 2019.
He required surgery to remove his colon and had only been back on duty a few months at the time of the stop.
“My doctors told me it’s not a matter of if you’re going to get colon cancer if you continue to go this way, but when,” he said. “I was drawn to Mr. Geddis the moment I spoke with him.”
In 22 years of service, Doty explained while he’d prayed privately, he never prayed aloud with any of the citizens he encountered while on duty.
Unbeknownst to any of them, the driver and Geddis’ daughter snapped a photo during their prayer, also unaware it would be one of the final moments she’d spend with her father.
Deacon Anthony Geddis died two months later, on May 22, 2022.
Approximately one week after his death, Wilkerson said she recounted the experience from that traffic stop in a social media post, as a tribute to her father. It received more than five million views, and more than 5,000 comments from around the world.
She praised her father as the protector of his “baby girl,” and as a man of strong faith -- then thanked Doty for the humanity he displayed that day.
“He could have given the ticket, not asked the questions, not connect in a humanly form, but he did,” she said.
Doty issued a warning ticket that day, thinking their exchange was over. The two reconnected, following the viral response from Wilkerson’s post.
“I’m not worthy of any of this,” he said. “This is about Mrs. Wilkerson grieving her father.”
Doty said the sequence of events that allowed their paths to cross on that March day was all God.
“Had they left that Duke Medical Center five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I may not have been on the interstate,” he said. “If somebody would’ve been speeding before them, I would’ve stopped them. It’s just God works in mysterious ways.”
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