It’s often the little things that strengthen the bond between mother and daughter, making the relationship special. This also means, however, that simple daily tasks can become a real struggle if the mom passes away, leaving a massive gap in any child’s life.
At just nine years of age, Isabella Pieri experienced a tragic loss of this kind. After suffering for years with a rare brain disease, her beloved mom, Patricia Pieri, lost her battle and died. Her husband was left to bring up their daughter alone in Alpine, Utah.
Grieving dad Philip Pieri, 47, tried his best to fill the parental gap that his wife had left. But there were some tasks that he found more difficult than others. For instance, despite teaching Isabella to look after herself in most respects, maintaining his young daughter’s hair was a job that they both dreaded.
Indeed, Philip admitted to being totally clueless when it came to styling Isabella’s locks. In fact, he even went so far as to give his daughter a crew cut shortly after his wife’s death in a desperate attempt to control her flowing hair.
“I originally just gave her a crew cut because I didn’t know how, and it was all tangled and I couldn’t get it out for anything,” Philip told KSL-TV in March 2018. Still, two years later, Isabella’s hair had grown long again. But that brought the issue of how to style it back to the surface.
After Philip’s drastic actions a couple of years earlier, though, young Isabella refused to allow her father to help. However, she herself was unable to create the up-dos that she wanted. Her dad, who works long hours at a local store, told Good Morning America, “She’d get mad at me for pulling her hair. I didn’t know how to do it.”
As life carried on, so did the saga of Isabella’s hair. But despite her best efforts, her hair remained a source of disappointment for the young girl. That was until a simple act of kindness from a warm-hearted stranger changed everything.
School-bus driver Tracy Dean, 47, had been styling some of the girls’ hair each morning before class, and Isabella wanted in on the action. She felt shy at first, however, and unable to ask Dean for help. But after a while, she plucked up enough courage to approach the bubbly blonde.
Dean agreed and subsequently began braiding Isabella’s hair each morning before school. “I can tell she was struggling with her hair,” Dean told Good Morning America. “We usually do two French braids first, and once in a while she just wants one braid. I also taught her how to brush her hair.”
And Isabella is delighted with her new routine. Indeed, Dean’s caring nature has brought a new sense of happiness to the child’s days. “It makes me feel like she’s a mom pretty much to me,” Isabella told KSL-TV. “And it makes me excited for the next day to see what she does.”
Moreover, it’s not only Isabella who has felt the effects of the bus driver’s kindness. The girl’s dad was overwhelmed when he heard how the mom-of-four had taken his daughter under her wing. “Tracy didn’t have to step up, but she stepped up to help out. I was amazed,” he told Good Morning America. “She’s such a nice woman.”
And even Isabella’s teachers appreciated the benefits of the young girl having a mother figure in her life. “I just noticed her head was a little higher that morning,” her teacher, Mrs. Freeze, told KSL-TV. “And she had a little more of a step.”
Nonetheless, Dean remained modest in spite of the recognition that she’d received for helping Isabella out. During an emotional KSL CARES news report in which viewers were warned to “grab the Kleenex,” the bus driver stated that her actions came naturally from being a mom herself.
Dean also revealed that since being diagnosed with breast cancer several years earlier, she has often wondered who would look after her four children should she not be around. As a result, Isabella’s situation really resonated with Dean.
“Seven years ago, I found out I had breast cancer. And that’s one of the things that went through my head – who is going to take care of my little ones?” Dean said. “Not that my husband couldn’t do it. But, you know, that’s what mom’s do. They do their kids’ hair.”
In the report, Dean could be seen adding a pretty flower to the plait before reminding Isabella how beautiful she looked. And as the driver stepped off the school bus, a KSL-TV reporter was waiting to greet the woman who’s making a difference to the lives of students every day.
Holding back her tears, the reporter asked the hairdresser/bus-driver/mom how she feels about the children she is helping. “It makes me feel happy that they’re happy,” Dean replied. And there seems to be no doubt that she puts a smile on many of the pupils’ faces.
Moreover, as the story spread across social media, members of the public praised this touching account of simple kindness making a difference to a child’s life. It appears that these young students will have fond memories of their bus driver when they look back on their school days.
In one response, Facebook user Diane Jones commented, “Thank you ma’am for the smiles you placed on these girl’s faces. It’s priceless. They will remember you for the rest of their lives and they will love you forever.”
And after such a tragic loss, Isabella’s father was most grateful to see his daughter happy again. “One day [Isabella] came home and [her hair] looked beautiful,” Philip said. “I call her my princess and she looks the part, she plays the part and her confidence is way up, which is what I’ve been intending.”