Hillsville’s late Danny Wooten proved the exception and not the rule to the sentiment “mankind should be our business but we seldom attend to it,” from Charles Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol.’
A favored bench in front of Wooten’s beloved church, Out Of The Box Worship Center (OOTBWC), was dedicated to his memory on October 4. Out of the Box Pastor Ronnie Collins prayed following the unveiling of a refurbished bench engraved with Wooten’s name by Town workers Anthony Snow and Kevin Edwards.
“He was always in church, ready to help do anything that needed to be done. Anywhere I go in this town, there’s somene who’ll talk about him. He loved his church. It’s a great thing. He had a big heart,” said Collins following the ceremony. “Knowing Danny he would be really happy at all the people who showed up. He used to joke and say now you couldn’t make it without me. I’d say yeah Danny, I don’t know how we made it before you got here.”
Collins thanked Snow and Edwards for their hard work. Participants applauded once the sheet was removed from the bench. Collins thanked God for Wooten’s influence in the life of the Town, the people and the church. He said “nothing is quite the same without Danny here and we love him.” He prayed every person who walks past the bench would feel the love Danny had for the people and the town and gave thanks for Wooten’s family and for them being willing to share Wooten with others.
”We in Town loved Danny so much. I got on Facebook one morning and someone had commented on dedicating a bench to Danny. I thought, man, that is an awesome idea. I got the town manager and my boss and he said, ‘Can we do that with one of the Town benches and asked if we could do that and they said most definately,’” said Edwards. “So we had a nameplate made and he said, ‘Wow.’ We love it and hope that you love it. We spent a lot of time on this because we care about Danny and I think this is what we need to do.”
Edwards said the completed nameplate didn’t seem to be what needed to be done. He and Snow went back to the drawing board and used Snow’s laser engraver.
“It (the nameplate) was paper thin. If you blew on it it would flex. It would have done a disservice to the man. I said well, we have to do something. We used the original slats. It took many hours of sanding and cleaning and stain and more stain. There’s at least eight to ten coats of clear on the front seat,” said Snow. “This was something that wasn’t just a favor or something you were paid to do. It was something that meant something to someone.”
Edwards (who also serves as a volunteer on the Town Beautification Committee) said volunteers are tired of talking and want to “start doing stuff.” He said instead of volunteers talking about an idea for three months they should do it and said the Beautification Committee’s goal is to get things going in Town.
“Most of the time people who do that (connect with people at their point of need) are stationary. He (Wooten) was like a traveling prophet. He was all over,” Snow said. “The engraving work took right at seven hours with the whole project taking a good two weeks. This is the first one for us. It’s supposed to have its own look. We did find out doing a museum quality finish on something is not what you want to do as a learning process. We wanted this bench to stand out.”
He said the other benches needed a bit of cleaning up and re-doing. He said the slats, though weathered, were in good shape before being refinished. Snow said he had enjoyed recent projects which carried meaning beyond a routine upgrade, requiring teamwork.
Collins confirmed a photo of Wooten, a cancer survivor, has been on display since his death. Wooten had served as a greeter at Out of the Box for more than three years.
“Every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night, Danny was here making coffee for the people that came in. He offered them coffee and all the kids hugged him,” Collins said. “He missed one Sunday when he went to see the ocean. Other than that, all through his chemotherapy and radiation he never missed a day. This was several months long. That’s a major thing. He didn’t miss. He loved it here. As a matter fact he was here the day he died. He was making coffee getting ready for service on Wednesday night when he started feeling bad and went next door.”
Collins said Wooten was always excited to get a chance to ride along to the river for other people’s baptisms. The Church held celebrations for him defeating cancer. Indeed, coffee and conversation seem to be the start of Wooten’s participation.
“We always had someone out to greet people on Sunday mornings and Danny would walk by here on his way to Hardee’s to get a cup of coffee,” recalled Collins. “A greeter said to him one day why don’t you stop and get our coffee, it’s free. And Danny did. He stopped and got a cup of coffee for a month. Finally he came in where we have the television to watch the service. One Sunday he walked in to the worship service. He used to say you couldn’t make me leave my chair. He just loved it. The people here loved him and he loved them. He was just always with us and willing to help whatever there was to be done.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.