Oregon town says goodbye to man who spent life helping neighbors

(CBS News) CORBETT, Ore. - On a ridge above the Columbia River, just down from heaven, CBS News found an angel on a front-end loader. As previously reported, Woody Davis, of Corbett, Oregon, was kind of a jack-of-all-trades who never made much money -- but definitely earned his wings.

A lifetime of favors repaid in man's final months

A local resident called him "the epitome of something dear." Another added that he wouldn't always ask for payment for the services he provided.

"I made a check out to him and stuck it in his pocket," another resident recalled. " You can't hand it to him."

Woody had always been so generous and so kind. He always waved to everybody.

Last year, folks in town decided to try and return at least some of that good will. They started by cutting and stacking his firewood for winter. A couple guys fixed-up his old pick-up. Someone even built him a beautiful wood box and invited the whole town to sign it.

Woody's son, Clint Davis, said he didn't know how much the community cared for his father until now. He said all the work his dad did for people has been repaid ten-fold.

"Bill Gates could not come to Corbett and buy this," Clint said. " You can't buy the love that people have poured out for Dad."

Their words and deeds were much appreciated.

Folks in Corbett, Oregon are thankful to Woody Davis for the good deeds he's done for over the last 50 years.
CBS News

Unfortunately, the box was pine, and the days were numbered. About a year ago, Woody was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It was clear when CBS News interviewed him in January he wouldn't see September. He was already struggling to lift and talk, but his attitude was completely unaffected.

Woody said he couldn't believe all the outpouring of help that the local people had been giving him the last few weeks.

"I feel blessed that I'm dying slowly," he said, his speech a bit slurred.

As strange at it may seem, Woody clarified that he meant his statement, adding that he was glad because people had a chance to express to him how they felt.

Too often in situations like this, death is whispered and praise is saved for the eulogy. But, thanks to the people of Corbett, Woody got to see what he meant to them before he died.

The funeral was Tuesday. They had to have the service in a different town because there wasn't a church in Corbett big enough. About 700 people showed up to pay their respects -- first in their own way -- and then in Woody's.

After the service, folks lined the streets and waved. They gave Woody that same big open-handed, wide open-hearted wave he gave them every day of his adult life.

And since Woody was never one to let a wave go unreciprocated, you can bet somewhere there's an angel tonight, with a very tired wing.

See CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman's original story on Woody Davis below:

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.