Eddie, Wick and Cecil were traveling down a cold, wet, winding road on a collision course. Each of them believed in the power of prayer. And, after they parted ways, their belief in it was more embedded than ever.
Cecil was carrying a load of heavy glass mirrors along U.S. Highway 441 north of Dublin. A 40-year-old truck driver from the northwestern corner of North Carolina, Cecil hailed from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the home of Andy Griffith, who was eight years his junior.
Wick, a Methodist minister, assigned to Centenary Methodist Church on Telfair Street in Dublin, was returning home from Atlanta getting ready for his next worship service.
The third and key member of the trio was Eddie, a 27-year-old soldier of the Cold War perhaps traveling to or from his home in Stephens County, Georgia, some 170 miles up Highway 441 North.
Eddie, who suffered from the kidney disorder (Bright’s disease), had gained a little notoriety by defeating Russians in the mid 1950s.
When Cecil’s truck crossed a bridge north of Dublin, his entire load shifted. His truck wound up on its side along the edge of the pavement. It was about that time when Wick arrived on the scene coming in from the north. Wick found Cecil pinned in his truck under seemingly immovable sheets of sharp, heavy, broken mirrors.
Putting aside any superstitions of bad luck, Wick assessed the situation and turned to his Savior for help. Wick felt that he had little or no hope to remove Cecil from the wrecked vehicle without some help. Wick believed in the power of prayer to God. After all, he preached about it on nearly Sunday of his adult life.
That’s when God summoned Eddie to the scene.
Eddie got out of his nice, big car and immediately offered to help. One by one, Eddie and Wick pulled off the jagged mirrors from the truck cab tossing them off to the side. Eddie was a big, heavy man of average height, which came in good for picking up stacks of mirrors one at this time. Cecil, his head bleeding, was pulled out of his truck and taken to a local hospital for treatment and examination. Wick, drawing on his inner personal faith and adrenaline burst, commented “I never knew I was so strong.”
Cecil, a veteran of the U.S. Navy in World War II, was actually Brammer Cecil. Cecil returned home to North Carolina and lived there until his death in 1981.
Wick was actually the Reverend John Sedwick Wetzel, who was born in 1920 in Huntingdon,West Virginia. Before entering the ministry, Rev. Wetzel worked as a public school teacher and a Boy Scout executive. Wetzel served churches in Nahunta, Blackshear, Woodbine, and Taboltton before coming to Centenary Methodist Church in Dublin in 1960.
“Rev. Wetzel, a retired Methodist minister, served 34 years in the South Georgia United Methodist Conference. His sense of humor was well known, and his ministry extended to people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. After retiring to Americus in 1982, he worked part-time at Magnolia Manor for 12 years. During this time he assisted the chaplain and was instrumental in establishing a program of religious activities for patients suffering from dementia at Magnolia Manor. The program gained a status that encouraged neighboring nursing homes to seek his assistance in establishing similar programs.” stated his obituary in the Americus Times-Recorder.
Rev. Wetzel spent his last years in Magnolia Manor Retirement Home in Americus, where he died on the day after Christmas in 2006.
And now for Eddie. Some of you might know his real name. But, let see how long it takes for you to figure out who Eddie really was.
Eddie returned to Dublin in October 1963 to assist Laurens County Superior Court Judge, Harold E. Ward in establishing a “Youth Jury” to advise the court in criminal cases where young people appeared before the court. Said to be the first “Youth Jury” of its kind in the state. The meeting was held in the courtroom of the old post office on East Madison Street.
Over the next thirteen lucky years, Eddie would return to Dublin, again and again - more than a dozen times. He came here and other places around the country- as many as 500 times a year - to talk to and about children, and in particular boys and more in particular troubled boys. Eddie came to churches, schools, club meetings and even crusades at the Shamrock Bowl, the Ag Center and a couple of St. Patrick’s events, so much so that Eddie became somewhat of a regular on the speaking circuit in Dublin. His last visit came just before Christmas in 1976 to testify before the members of the Brewton Baptist Church.
The “Eddie” I speak of, unless you have already guessed who is is, was Paul Edward Anderson, the self proclaimed “Strongest Man in the World.”
Paul Anderson, a 1932 native of Toccoa, Georgia, won a national weightlifting championship in 1955. Later that year, Paul traveled to Munich, Germany as a sort of unofficial and victorious combatant in the Cold War against Russia and East Germany. In 1956, Paul brought home a gold medal from the Olympics held in Australia. He could then and rightfully claim the title as “The Strongest Man in the World.”
In 1961, Paul and his new wife, Glenda, started the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia to pay it back and forward, the blessings which God had given them. That home for troubled boys is still there more than two decades after he lost the last challenge to his vicious kidney disease.
Yes, Al Michaels, I do believe in miracles. Miracles do happen. And on a cold, windy Laurens County highway in 1960, a miracle did happen when a preacher, a truck driver and the strongest man in the world had a rendezvous with destiny.