FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - Some stories fall in your lap - or in this case, into your email inbox - when you need them most.
This one arrived early on a wintry Saturday morning. It’s a story told in a few words, but told so well in the simple way it was submitted that it doesn’t need a reporter, or even much of an editor.
The story comes from 82-year-old Fond du Lac resident George “Bud” Caldwell. Those of you familiar with Community Theatre know who we’re talking about. He sent me the email as a thank you to two selfless men who had done him what in their minds was a small favor - but a favor that means the world to Bud.
It needs just a little context: Bud’s wife of nearly 56 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Caldwell, died April 15, 2013, just short of her 80th birthday. Her family dedicated a park bench to her by the train station in Lakeside Park last year.
The following is what Bud sent to Action Reporter Media (https://fondul.ac/1unJln5 ) - his title, his words.
A Daisy a Day
One of the favorite songs of my wife and I was “A Daisy a Day,” and when she was a little girl her favorite song was “Pennies From Heaven.”
When Betty died we bought a park bench and had it placed at the little train station in Lakeside Park. I had a plaque made with her picture on it which is placed on the bench.
When the weather is nice I take a fresh daisy every day and put it on the bench and either report or confess depending on what went on the day before. At my age, there’s a lot more reporting than confessing. Then I put a penny on top of the plaque - which other people do who visit her. When the pennies accumulate I take them home, put them in a little jar and give them to the Salvation Army red kettle at Christmas.
In the winter with the snow and the cold I can’t get up to the bench and so I put a spray of silk daisies on it. One day last week I noticed that a path had been cleared up to the end of the bench and so I walked up and reported.
On my way back to the car a city truck pulled up and parked across the street and two young men came out and walked over to me. One stuck his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Jerrod.” The other stuck his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Kevin.”
I shook both of their hands and told them my name was Bud. They told me that they had seen me there before and so they had cleared that path for me. I told them why I was there every day and they told me that they would keep that path cleared for me all winter. What an extraordinary act of kindness from two young men to one old man!
I’d like to publicly thank them. So as long as I’m able, I’ll go to the park and give her “A Daisy a Day.”
And so ends Bud’s story. But it’s not quite the whole story.
Bud, Jerrod Ebert and Kevin Schultz met with me and photographer Patrick Flood at Betty’s park bench under cloudy skies on a mild winter afternoon earlier this week. I was hoping Jerrod and Kevin would let us take their picture with Bud, even shoot some video, but they would have none of that.
“You can use our names, but we really don’t want to be in a photo,” Jerrod said, and he did most of the talking for the two. Kevin never took off his sunglasses, so it was hard to figure out what he was thinking about this hastily called meeting with the press. They had us take a picture of them with Bud on their cell phones, something for their photo albums, not ours.
Jerrod, who has worked for the City Parks Department for 15 years, said he and Kevin are responsible for putting up and taking down Christmas decorations at the park and they had noticed Bud on his daily visits to the bench. One day, they saw Bud sitting in his car parked along the curb.
A plaque with Betty Caldwell’s photo adorns a bench installed in her memory at the train station in Lakeside Park. Her husband, George “Bud” Caldwell, visits the bench daily to leave a daisy and a penny.(Photo: Patrick Flood Photography for The Reporter)
“We felt bad that he couldn’t make it (to the bench) and we wanted to help him out,” Jerrod said. “We just felt it was something you should do. We are here to be stewards, to help out. We didn’t do it for any kind of recognition.”
The path they cleared with shovel and snowblower is a “path to nowhere” that doesn’t typically get plowed. It isn’t part of the walking paths through the park. But that path will be cleared any time it snows this winter - and for winters to come - as long as Bud needs a path to reach his dear Betty.
Bud couldn’t thank these men enough. He spent a few minutes talking about his wife with us as the clouds refused to part, the grayness of the day settling in. He gave us the story behind the song, behind the pennies. He mentioned a DVD his family made called Daisy a Day that pays tribute to his dearly departed wife.
“It’s a song that chronicles our life together,” he said by way of explanation.
And then, after Jerrod and Kevin left, he sang it for Pat and I. His voice was clear through the first verse and halfway through the second, and then he broke down.
“I’m sorry,” he said, as he swallowed the tears. And then he kept singing.
I’m sure Betty was listening, and singing along.
Information from: The Reporter Media, https://www.fdlreporter.com
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