The Central Virginian

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Ex-patient at free hospital works hard to repay kindness

Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 at 5:00 am

John Wilmer Byers

By Helen Waltman

When you feel reluctant to help someone less fortunate than you, or when you turn your back on situations, which need your help and support to correct, stop, then think of Mt. John Wilmer Byers of Bumpass. There are many handicapped persons who never reach the potential of their ability, but this isn’t true of Mr. Byers, who found it necessary to have his leg amputated five years ago, because of a cholesterol problem.

“When I had to go to the hospital, my doctor wanted me to go to a pay hospital in Richmond. I told him at my age I would never live long enough to pay the bill, so he got me into Sheltering Arms Hospital in Richmond, for which I was grateful,” he said. He remained in Sheltering Arms Hospital for a month following the amputation of his left leg and he was so grateful he has no bill to pay, that he has been trying ever since to help the hospital by making beautiful items in his workshop to be sold at their annual bazaar.

This year, the bazaar will be held on Thursday, February 9, beginning at ten o’clock. The hospital will observe its 89th anniversary on that day.

Mr. Byers was told soon after the operation that he would not be able to wear an artificial leg so he picked up a crutch and not only learned to walk, but to work with only one leg.

In his station wagon, he will deliver about 35 items, all handmade, to the hospital sale. Included will be handing baskets made from materials he obtained from the forest, picture frames, pipe holders, a shadow box frame containing Christ on the cross. He makes beautiful birdhouses and feeders that look like miniature, old-fashioned country stores, churches and schools, and doghouses just like human houses, windmill weather vanes, toys and gun racks.

One year, he made a stagecoach of the old west, “Gunsmoke days.” It was five feet long and drawn by a pair of prancing horses. It had a driver and his companion with shotguns, trunks, and strongbox for valuables and the bag carrying the U.S. mail, all made of wood.

Another covered wagon he made contained the family possessions they were taking west, including water kegs, and was drawn by flop-eared wooden mules. He puts in a big garden every year and works it with a garden tractor himself.

Since his amputation, he has built a workshop. “Everyone who came down the road wanted to know how I got the roof on it and I told them I went up the ladder, that it wasn’t a very tall building,” he said.

Mr. Byers solicits donations for the hospital and he believes that any former patients, who are able, should also help. “Don’t let the wealthy class of people do it all. They are not going to use the hospital, we are the ones who will use it,” he said.

“They were always at my side when I needed them, so with the Lord’s help, I am still going,” he said referring to Sheltering Arms Hospital. “In my condition, I cannot get any insurance from any company, so I depend on them when I need a hospital. If you so desire, you may come to the hospital to the bazaar, or you can send a few dollars to the following address,” he concluded. Sheltering Arms Hospital, 1311 Palmyra Avenue, Richmond, Virginia.

Reprinted form the January 12, 1978 edition of The Central Virginian.