Jess C. Reeves has a keen sense of humor, sharp and witty, and seems to be an optimist by nature, despite the fact that he is confined within the four walls of his house. He hasn’t been outside in several years. It’s not that he doesn’t want to get out, he just can’t. That’s because Reeves has neuropathy, a disease that deadens the nerves, making his legs totally immovable.
Soon to turn 90, Reeves has a power wheelchair, but he doesn’t have a ramp. His caretaker, Mary Ann Matthews, who stays with him 24/7, is trying to find someone to build a ramp for Reeves. Her dream is to have Reeves’ 90 birthday party (on Sept. 14) outside in his backyard, if she could only get him there. She is asking the Clarendon community for help.
“He is like a father figure to me,” she said. “I would take him outside myself, on my back if I could.”
Reeves is a decorated medic from World War II. He volunteered for the Army, and served with the 83rd Infantry Division from 1942-1945. He landed in Normandy just three days after D-Day.
When asked about his experiences in the war, Reeves simply replied, “there were no experiences … just going from one foxhole to another.” And again with humor he said that fighting in the European theater was “like being on a camping trip, with bullets flying at you instead of birds.”
The son of farmers, Reeves grew up in Bryson City, N.C., and worked as a straw hat maker for a brief period in Baltimore, Md. He soon returned to his home state to work, setting up machinery for a full-fashion hosiery line for 15 years. He then joined a textile plant, called White Shield, where he helped to set up machinery as well.
After retiring, he moved to Sumter in 1988, with his wife, Pearl, who he was happily married to for 63 years. Sadly, his wife passed away from breast cancer eight years ago. He and his wife lived in Sumter for five years, before moving to the White Oak 1 subdivision on Lake Marion, in Clarendon County.
Matthews said that when she first began taking care of Reeves’ house in April, he could move around with a walker, but would fall down very often. Now he can’t even do that. Matthews said that the state branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is willing to help, but that for them to do so, they have to get him to Columbia for evaluation, which she can’t do because she can’t physically get him out of the house.
“I’m stuck,” she said. “My problem is that I can’t get him outside to do anything, to go to the doctor’s office or to visit anyone, or just to go out to eat.”
Matthews is looking for the community’s support to help to build a ramp for Reeves.
“What I’m hoping for is that our community will come together in fellowship and provide this nice veteran with a ramp,” she said.
Shortly after this story was posted to www.clarendoncitizen.com, the Summerton Rotary agreed to build a ramp to accommodate Mr. Reeves, according to President Bea Rivers. President-elect John Belding will coordinate the effort.
Summerton Rotary seeks donations to help in the effort. Donations can be mailed Summerton Rotary, P.O. Box 626, Summerton, SC 29102.
Reeves resides at 1150 Dollard Lane, part of White Oak 1 subdivision, in Summerton.