After hours of scouring the Eastbluff area, Newport Beach police volunteer Richard Simon spotted a cap on a Back Bay trail.
"It just looked like something an older man would wear," Simon said. "It was beat to hell."
The clue led Simon, 71, to a ravine, where Gordon Gilbert Breecher, 78, was lying face-up about 5:45 p.m. Monday.
Breecher, who suffers from dementia, had gone missing from his Eastbluff home more than 10 hours earlier. Concerned for his safety, police and volunteers had embarked on a manhunt to find him.
Simon, an eight-year veteran of the Newport Beach Police Department's volunteer program, talked to about 30 people in his search. After finding Breecher, Simon shared his water bottle, called police and walked up the path to where paramedics and police could easily find him.
Public safety personnel located Simon and went down to the ravine area to help Breecher, who was later escorted unharmed and in good health to his home.
"What further amazed me was this guy's internal strength," Simon said.
It turns out the two men are neighbors, living within a mile of each other, but never meeting until the rescue.
"How he even got there is weird," Simon said. "It was just luck on both of our parts that it coincided."
Simon was among 28 sworn- and non-sworn personnel searching for Breecher after he was reported missing earlier Monday, police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said.
"We are extremely proud of Richard's persistence and efforts that led to the safe return of Mr. Breecher," Lowe said. "Richard's actions typify the dedication and high level of service that our volunteers put forth every day. The citizens of Newport Beach are indeed fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers serving their community."