Jefferson City's Bird Lady
Six years ago, Phelps was walking her dog at the intersection of Atchison and Broadway.
"And I was coming down here and that's where the bird was, right here," she recalled. "And the cars were coming this way and this way, and that little thing was trying to get out of the street."
Phelps remembers the exact date she found the badly-hurt sparrow: Nov. 18, the anniversary her husband's death, from a heart attack at the age of 41.
"We had lost two little boys, I didn't tell you that, at birth," she explained. "He said, 'Honey, I'm going to leave you. I'll take care of the boys now, you take care of the girls.'"
Helen was 33 when she was left alone to raise 2 young children. So, 49 years later to the day, she couldn't bear to experience another loss.
"I thought, 'I can't do that, it would have been too sad.' So I laid the leash down and I said, 'Tana, you stay' and I went up like this to the cars."
"I just carried her home in my hand, you know."
The bird had a broken wing and was barely breathing, and Phelps feared it would not survive the night. She saved the bird's life, not realizing the companionship she'd receive in return.
"My daughter says she saved my life. She says I was getting so depressed and everything," Phelps admitted. "I say, 'Thank you, Lord' every morning for little bird. I say, 'Lord love you and I love you, now be happy, little bird.'"
Helen doesn't know if her sparrow is a boy or a girl, so she simply calls it "bird."