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Paddling Parishioner

Since 1948, come rain or shine, Bill Wendell of Draper has been paddling his boat across the New River to go to church — even in the winter months. “Unless the water is froze,” he paddles, he said, emphatically.
Wendell, 78, who lives alone on Clarks Ferry Road, said it was his future in-laws, the Goads, who got him thinking about getting his own boat to paddle across the river to attend the services at the Allisonia Pentecostal Holiness Church. So, it was no surprise when he got his own wooden boat with paddles and would ask his future bride, Ann Marie Goad, to take a little trip on the river.
In 1949, when Bill and Ann Marie got married, they continued their routine of crossing the river to go to church. Even after having five children, they all loaded in the little wooden boat to go to church. “Oh, the kids didn’t mind at all,” Bill said gleefully. “’Fact, they loved it.”
A truck driver for 23 years, Wendell said it’s more practical to cross the half-mile stretch of water than drive around in a vehicle in a circuitous route to get to the other side.
Wendell keeps the boat on the riverbank, a scant few feet from his porch. He pointed to a small aluminum job tied to a post, bobbing in the water with a tiny trolling engine hanging off the back. “My wooden boat was falling apart so I got this one two years ago,” he remarked, as he nimbly hopped on board.
He keeps two long poles, 2×2 inches thick and 7 feet long, on either side of the boat.
Bill untied the boat, pulled up the anchor and grabbed one of the poles. He quickly dug it into the murky water and with one mighty shove was off sailing into deeper water. “We’ll pole to the other side. This is what I do to save on gas.”
Nearing the other bank, the water got deeper and he had to use the poles like paddles.
He showed me the church and willingly posed for pictures. After looking around, we headed back to the boat. “Step on that clump of grass when you get in,” he advised, as the bank is steep and wet. “It’ll keep you from slidin’ into the water.”
It started to drizzle so he tried to fire up the little engine. “We better crank ‘er up or we’ll get wet,” he said, yanking on the rope. The little motor pouted and stayed mute. Wendell pumped more gasoline, sprayed a carburetor cleaner into the reluctant engine and pulled on the rope again… and again… and again. But each time, the small silvery engine would sputter and die.
It began raining harder. As he continued to work on the engine, we started drifting downstream. Almost halfway back, the engine finally came alive and we gurgled safely back to the opposite bank, soaking wet. After tying up his boat, Wendell invited me inside to warm up.
He said his wife died of diabetes two years ago and he’s been living all alone except for his three dogs and six cats.
“These dogs,” he said, pointing to a little canine of undetermined breed. “Somebody just dumped them in my yard. So, I took ’em in.”
Wendell said he has five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, all living out of the state.
To keep active, he said he does “a little bit here, a little bit there,” and recently dug potatoes out of his garden and canned several jars of red beets. He tells how he learned canning from his mom as a young man. He admits loneliness depresses him at times and when he feels like the walls are closing in on him, he goes to Wal-Mart or Magic Mart, “just to look around, maybe buy something.”

Although looking robust and with a great sense of humor, Wendell said he’s got cancer, but would not elaborate on it and added he takes medicine to keep it in check.
He emphasizes that he finds great solace and strength rowing his boat to the other side of the river and attending the services at the Allisonia Pentecostal Holiness Church. “I feel blessed,” he said. “Got nothin’ to worry about.”
Bill Wendell has five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren; all living out of the state.

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Paddling Parishioner

Since 1948, come rain or shine, Bill Wendell of Draper has been paddling his boat across the New River to go to church — even in the winter months. “Unless the water is froze,” he paddles, he said, emphatically.
Wendell, 78, who lives alone on Clarks Ferry Road, said it was his future in-laws, the Goads, who got him thinking about getting his own boat to paddle across the river to attend the services at the Allisonia Pentecostal Holiness Church. So, it was no surprise when he got his own wooden boat with paddles and would ask his future bride, Ann Marie Goad, to take a little trip on the river.
In 1949, when Bill and Ann Marie got married, they continued their routine of crossing the river to go to church. Even after having five children, they all loaded in the little wooden boat to go to church. “Oh, the kids didn’t mind at all,” Bill said gleefully. “’Fact, they loved it.”
A truck driver for 23 years, Wendell said it’s more practical to cross the half-mile stretch of water than drive around in a vehicle in a circuitous route to get to the other side.
Wendell keeps the boat on the riverbank, a scant few feet from his porch. He pointed to a small aluminum job tied to a post, bobbing in the water with a tiny trolling engine hanging off the back. “My wooden boat was falling apart so I got this one two years ago,” he remarked, as he nimbly hopped on board.
He keeps two long poles, 2×2 inches thick and 7 feet long, on either side of the boat.
Bill untied the boat, pulled up the anchor and grabbed one of the poles. He quickly dug it into the murky water and with one mighty shove was off sailing into deeper water. “We’ll pole to the other side. This is what I do to save on gas.”
Nearing the other bank, the water got deeper and he had to use the poles like paddles.
He showed me the church and willingly posed for pictures. After looking around, we headed back to the boat. “Step on that clump of grass when you get in,” he advised, as the bank is steep and wet. “It’ll keep you from slidin’ into the water.”
It started to drizzle so he tried to fire up the little engine. “We better crank ‘er up or we’ll get wet,” he said, yanking on the rope. The little motor pouted and stayed mute. Wendell pumped more gasoline, sprayed a carburetor cleaner into the reluctant engine and pulled on the rope again… and again… and again. But each time, the small silvery engine would sputter and die.
It began raining harder. As he continued to work on the engine, we started drifting downstream. Almost halfway back, the engine finally came alive and we gurgled safely back to the opposite bank, soaking wet. After tying up his boat, Wendell invited me inside to warm up.
He said his wife died of diabetes two years ago and he’s been living all alone except for his three dogs and six cats.
“These dogs,” he said, pointing to a little canine of undetermined breed. “Somebody just dumped them in my yard. So, I took ’em in.”
Wendell said he has five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, all living out of the state.
To keep active, he said he does “a little bit here, a little bit there,” and recently dug potatoes out of his garden and canned several jars of red beets. He tells how he learned canning from his mom as a young man. He admits loneliness depresses him at times and when he feels like the walls are closing in on him, he goes to Wal-Mart or Magic Mart, “just to look around, maybe buy something.”

Although looking robust and with a great sense of humor, Wendell said he’s got cancer, but would not elaborate on it and added he takes medicine to keep it in check.
He emphasizes that he finds great solace and strength rowing his boat to the other side of the river and attending the services at the Allisonia Pentecostal Holiness Church. “I feel blessed,” he said. “Got nothin’ to worry about.”
Bill Wendell has five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren; all living out of the state.

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