The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 4, 2014

W.Va. hero

— Even down in Florida, Beckley native Bill Slavey couldn’t escape West Virginia weather.

Good thing, too. The self-described mountain man certainly knew a thing or two about getting things done when the roads iced up.

But what is remarkable about Mr. Slavey’s story in Pensacola was his commitment and generosity in helping out his fellow man — or his fellow woman.

As a West Virginian, he knows a thing or two about helping neighbors, too.

Ice is unusual even in the north parts of Florida. As motorists began having trouble on a hill up to a railroad crossing, the bearded Slavey, a self-described “mountain guy,” saw where his duty lay.

“I always helped people my whole life,” he told local reporters. “People were stuck. I had to get them out.”

And that’s what he did, for the next six-and-a-half hours. He helped dozens of motorists who couldn’t make it up the icy crossing, even driving their cars to their destinations while his wife drove his four-wheel drive.

He had a four-wheel drive, and that’s a sure sign of a West Virginian, we think.

Slavey said he grew up like a lot of West Virginians, learning to drive on a tractor on the family farm. Later, he drove wreckers, and that is a pretty good education for helping people who don’t have much experience driving on ice.

“It’s knowledge,” he told reporters. “I know what you gotta do.”

Did we say that Slavey performed all of his heroics in shorts and a tank top?

Slavey says he has split time between Florida and West Virginia since 1980 when he married his wife when they were teenagers. He’s 49 now, and he and his wife have five children and seven grandchildren.

One driver was stuck and Slavey offered to drive the vehicle up the grade and over the crossing. As he stepped from the car, he slipped on an icy spot, and Slavey caught him.

The man’s young son looked at the long beard Slavey wears, and told his father: “Don’t worry, daddy. Santa will get us out of here.”

Slavey, as one might expect in our digital age, is quite the hero across social media networks today. We often say that bad news travels fast. It makes us feel pretty happy that good news can travel fast, too.

Slavey says it isn’t the first time he’s helped folks in need, and that he’s aided boaters down in Florida before when they got in trouble, stuck on sandbars.

When several drivers he helped asked him where he’s from, he proudly told them, “West Virginia.”

Well, Bill Slavey, we’d like to tell you, we’re proud, too.