Oley Doty of the Camellia Place assisted living community in Woodstock has quickly become a local celebrity through his unlikely friendship with the kids and bus drivers of Woodstock Elementary School.
Life Engagement Manager Allison Suh of Camellia Place said that Doty started this friendship through his daily walks.
“Doty started walking everyday since the quarantine started back in March,” Suh said. “With the quarantine taking away his daily interactions with the community, this walk has become a way for him to once again begin interacting with people. It has also been rough for him since his wife passed away earlier this year, so his daily walks and interactions with the bus drivers and kids has served as a coping mechanism, as well as what he said was the best part of his day.”
Suh said that Doty’s walks usually consist of strolling along the sidewalks of the Camellia Place community, and has more recently stretched out to the sidewalks of Rope Mill Road.
“We are kind of like a neighborhood,” Suh said. “We have houses with sidewalks going through and around the area, so he likes to walk around on the sidewalks in our community. He ventured to the front of our community and to the sidewalks of Rope Mill Road, with these walks usually accumulating around five miles a day. He has become a bit of a local celebrity because people now wave or honk at him and a couple of people recently have even stopped to chat for a little bit.”
Suh said that Doty’s ventures to the front of the community led to his eventual friendship with the students and bus drivers of Woodstock Elementary School, with Doty now making sure that he knows the exact time the buses will drive past in the morning and afternoons so he can wave as they pass by for pick-up and drop-off.
“Oley began making it a daily routine to wave at the bus drivers and kids who would pass by through the week,” Suh said. “One day I answered the phone and, to my shock, on the other line of the phone was one of the bus drivers who drives past our community during the week. She called to introduce herself and to tell us that she and the other bus drivers, as well as the kids, talk about Oley all the time. She even told me that the kids eagerly run to the side of the bus so they can wave at him as they pass by.”
Suh said the conversation continued about Oley, with her telling the driver about his personality, interests, name, etc. Then, a week later, Doty began receiving a number of cards in the mail from some of the students and drivers who greet him everyday as they drive by.
Executive Director Andrew McFall of Camellia Place said that Oley knows the bus numbers, what time they pick up and drop off, and he even now knows the names of all the bus drivers as well. Doty’s celebrity status was further proven when he visited Woodstock Elementary School recently.
“Camellia Place reached out to the principals of Woodstock Elementary and, after discussions regarding what was taking place with Doty on his walks, both sides decided that it would be a great idea to have him come to the school for a socially distanced meet and greet,” McFall said. “Woodstock Elementary staff gave Oley a T-shirt, root beer floats, which are his favorites, and they also made him an honorary Woodstock Wildcat. He was able to meet with the staff and students and it made everyone involved very happy.”
Doty dealt with a difficult start to the pandemic, but with the help of a caring and kind community, Suh said that the last few months for him have helped him to get back on his feet.
“He is the sweetest man who would do anything for anybody, so for the community to reach out and give back to him during all of what is going on right now, it is just very sweet,” she said.