ELLENBORO - A Ritchie County man who has spent decades making people smile is being paid back.
Jack Reed, 68, the Ellenboro Greeter, has received around 1,000 Christmas cards as part of a drive started by his daughter, Sherri Reed Slaven, and others to show appreciation and support to a man whose been waving at vehicles in the county for more than 20 years.
"I don't think he realized how many hearts he's touched," Slaven said.
Jack Reed is shown as grand marshal of the Ellenboro Christmas Parade. Reed was recently named an honorary fireman by the Ellenboro Volunteer Fire Department.
"You can see for yourself what an impact this man has made on a small community," said Judi McCullough, a lifelong resident of Ritchie County. "He is a story of inspiration and courage. Or, at least he has been for me."
Born on Valentines Day 1944, Reed was raised outside Harrisville. He served as a town constable, a police officer in Cairo, a deputy sheriff and worked for the state road department before medical issues forced him from work.
Reed also worked as an sports official in the 1970s, officiating high school basketball and football games in the area. He recalls officiating a Harlem Globetrotters game where he was chased into the stands by a Globetrotter.
"I was (wagging my finger at him) scolding him and he gives me a kiss," he said, laughing. "I got something from the Globetrotters no one else got."
In 1990, he suffered an aneurysm. The family says while in surgery, doctors discovered a second aneurysm on the other side of his brain. Reed's wife Donna said an aneurysm killed Jack's father.
Reed suffered some brain damage as a result of the aneurysms and was unable to work. Donna Reed quit work at the garment factory in Harrisville to take care of him.
"It got so he would wander off. So I quit to take care of him," she said.
While Reed was recovering, he started standing in the yard, waving at cars. At the time the Reeds lived outside Harrisville along West Virginia 31.
"He wasn't allowed to work so he would take his chair and sit in the yard by the road and wave at people," his wife said. "There weren't many cars then."
Reed used a tablet to keep track of those who waved back or honked at him.
"I fell in love with people," he said. "I have love for everyone in my heart."
Around 2001, the Reeds moved to Ellenboro. And Reed stood along West Virginia 16, most often at the underpass of U.S. 50, waving at vehicles.
"The first few times I saw him, my reaction was, 'Who is that strange man, and why is he waving at me?' But, I would wave at him, and drive on by, mentally shaking my head, wondering," said McCullough.
"Day after day, week after week, month after month, when I was on my way home from work, there he would be, waving at people. Some days, he would have a lawnchair with him, but I don't think I ever saw him sitting in it," McCullough said. "He was always holding something in one had, while he waved with the other. After a while, he became a part of my drive home. I would always make sure I had my hand free as I approached Ellenboro, so I could wave at him."
"He's a fixture," Slaven said.
In 2009, Reed was presented a plaque for citizenship by Ellenboro officials declaring him the Official Greeter of Ellenboro.
Recently, he was honored by the Ellenboro Volunteer Fire Department, who presented him with a plaque naming him an honorary fireman. He also served as marshal for the Ellenboro Christmas Parade.
Children from St. Luke's Preschool came to the house to sing Christmas carols.
"One of the little girls wanted to know if he was from 'Duck Dynasty,'" Slaven said.
"I never really knew his story until a few months ago," McCullough said. "One day, on my drive home, as I prepared to wave, I looked for him, and he wasn't there. I wondered why, but didn't think a lot of it, until the next day, when he wasn't there again. I found out - via Facebook - that he was in the hospital."
In October, Reed was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his bones and spine. Two weeks earlier the family said he'd been to the hospital, had X-rays taken and nothing was found.
"It was a shock," Slaven said.
Slaven loves her father. She has nothing but admiration for her mother, who remains dedicated to her husband of 51 years.
Through the course of his medical issues - including a stroke - Jack Reed's heart has stopped three times. Once Donna revived him, two other times he was revived by emergency crews.
"She has taken care of him since day one," Slaven said. "She's my rock."
The Reeds have four kids, three boys and Slaven who lives just a few miles away from her parents.
Friends and relatives started a Facebook campaign to return the love Jack Reed displayed for years with his simple act.
Operation Christmas Love! is a Facebook page asking people to send cards to Reed. Launched just a few weeks ago Reed has received more than 1,000 cards expressing love, support and Christmas cheer. He's received cards from school children in Huntington and folks in Mississippi, Colorado, England and Korea.
Cards can be sent to: Jack F. Reed, P.O. Box 324, Ellenboro, WV 26346.
Donna Reed said she doesn't know what she will do with all of the cards Jack has received.
"They are beautiful."
Reed is taking chemo and has good days and bad. Slaven said doctors haven't talked to the family in terms of time. The family is bringing Reed's brother to the area to visit for the holidays.
Slaven said when her father gets to feeling down he will get out the cards and read them.
"There are little pictures and notes in them and he will re-read them," Slaven said.
Reed still tries to make it to the road, where he'll stand and wave as long as his strength allows.
"He can't make it downtown, but mommy will walk him to the end of the road as long as he can," Slaven said.
"The kids hang out the windows of the school buses, 'Hi Jack!'" Slaven said. "He's a walking miracle."