Despite spending only 5 minutes in his first ride with her, she offered to help him out as and when needed.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 5, 2022. It has since been updated.
Jenni Tekletsion, 55, developed the unlikeliest of friendships with Paul Webb, an 88-year-old who was her Uber passenger. Tekletsion met Paul Webb in March 2020, when he called an Uber, and almost two years later they're best friends and she's also his caretaker. Tekletsion says Webb's first Uber ride with her to get his phone fixed might have lasted only five minutes but there was a certain kind of warmth and empathy that they both shared. “From the start, we really connected,” she said, reported The Washington Post. Webb recalled Tekletsion being very easy to talk to. Webb couldn't drive anymore after he suffered a stroke in 2017 and he had also been diagnosed with dementia several years ago.
Tekletsion said she recognized within minutes of the ride that he was lonely and was someone who needed help. When she dropped him off home, she offered to be of help. "I told him I live nearby his house, so I said, ‘From now on, when you need a ride, just call me,’ she recalls. “I will take care of you.” Webb was thankful and called her the very next day when he wanted to step out to buy milk. Webb rang Tekletsion every time he needed to get somewhere, including doctors’ appointments, haircuts, and grocery store visits.
Their bond grew, and soon it became a routine for Tekletsion to take him out to eat after her work. She was working remotely while also working toward her doctoral degree in business administration at Franklin University. Tekletsion drove Uber in her spare time so she could send the additional earnings to an orphanage in Ethiopia — her home country. They were now meeting every day and they shared an incredible rapport. “We talk about anything and everything and we usually agree on everything,” said Tekletsion.
Jenni Tekletsion met Paul Webb driving Uber, her side job. She was also a Banker. She learned of his Dementia, so for 2 yrs she drove him to all his errands. They became close. When he fell ill, she quit her jobs to become his caregiver! There is only one race, the human race! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/EKlzGovtvb— Brunell Donald-Kyei (@brunelldonald) December 16, 2021
Earlier this year, in April, Webb’s health started declining and Tekletsion did something radical. She quit her full-time job and became his caregiver. She had felt incredibly close and after learning that it wasn't possible for Webb’s children to take care of him, she stepped up. She was reminded of her own father, who lived and passed away in Ethiopia in 2003 and she couldn't be there for him. She missed her Dad, and in many shared a father-daughter relationship with Webb.
Webb's family were initially wary of her presence in his life. They always suspected she had an ulterior motive, something to gain from Webb. “The hardest part was to build trust with his children,” recalled Tekletsion. “I explained to them who I am and where I come from, and that I don’t need anything from Paul, but I want to take care of him and help him in his daily life.” Webb's son Keith soon learned that she was very sincere.
As Webb's health declined, he spent more time indoors and alone. His children could hop in once in a while but they couldn't care for him full time. As Webb's condition worsened, he started wandering out of his home alone and it was dangerous. Keith and his sister knew they had to do something about it because their father could get injured. They were staring at the option of putting him in an assisted-living facility even though they "didn’t want to do that.” As they mulled what to do, Tekletsion offered to look after him. The family was stunned. “Please don’t take him to assisted living. I will take care of him,” she said. “There are people in this world that really care,” said Keith, adding that her kindness is “an example of hope generated in a nation that can feel hopeless.” Tekletsion took a 50 percent pay cut to become Paul’s full-time caregiver, but she was happy to be there for Webb, her dear friend. This also meant her husband took on more responsibility at home. He was working three jobs to provide her the flexibility to look after Webb. “She is the real deal,” Keith about Tekletsion. Webb is happy to have Tekletsion by his side. “I don’t even want to think about losing her friendship. She is like a daughter to me.”