Officers found 75-year-old Lester Forde Sr. lying on the ground in a fetal position, his feet bare and purple from the cold.
They quickly removed their shirts and bulletproof vests and placed them over the elderly man to keep him warm until paramedics arrived.
Forde, who is deaf and suffers from dementia, had disappeared from his York home 24 hours earlier, prompting an all-day search that involved teams of local police, firemen and tracking dogs.
He was found barely an hour before nightfall on Saturday. There is little chance Forde would have survived another night in bitter conditions, said Lt. Brian Trail, one of the first officers on the scene.
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As they rejoiced Sunday at Piedmont Medical Center, where Forde was recovering from severe frostbite, family members said they are grateful for the efforts of police and firemen - and for two York women who aided in the discovery.
Kathy Kimble and her mom, Jean, joined the search after reading of Forde's disappearance on Facebook. They had been friendly with the Forde family over the years and wanted to help, Kimble said Sunday.
"My mom just had a gut feeling to check that area," Kimble said.
They found Forde's gray 2006 Ford Fusion parked on dead-end Morton Street. The car sat in a tangle of brush, but the Kimbles spotted the Ford emblem and a handicapped tag hanging from the windshield.
"The way the car was down in there, it almost looked like somebody was trying to hide it," Kimble said.
The Kimbles called police, who rushed to the scene and scoured the area. Forde was found about a quarter-mile from his home, in a clearing in the woods near some power lines. He had wandered 300 yards from his car before collapsing, police sad.
Without the Kimbles' help, police might not have found Forde in time, said Trail, a 21-year veteran of the York Police Department.
"In another hour, it was going to be dark," he said. "I doubt he would have been located."
Doctors treated Forde for frostbite and tended to cuts and scratches he suffered from crawling through a patch of briars.
Tests showed that blood flow returned to Forde's feet and toes, said granddaughter Amy Moss: "They are more hopeful now that his toes will be fine, and will not have to be amputated."
Moss said her grandfather forgets names and places, but had never left home unattended before Friday.
"We're thankful that God sent two angels without wings," she said. "Without them, he may not even be here. He could have laid there and suffered."