Mr. Zodie helps raise a village of kids

You may not know his name, but you surely know his friendly wave. Zodie McCall is a Helena institution and one-man crew often seen working his route keeping Helena roads litter-free.

“I get comments all the time about how clean our streets are and I appreciate Mr. Zodie’s role in that,” said Mayor Sonny Penhale.

Mr. Zodie has been in Helena ‘forever’ –– working with the auxiliary police as far back as 1972, running a convenience store, cleaning Faulkner’s automotive shop on weekends, driving a school bus for 29 years, plus a stint at Winn Dixie before his ‘retirement.’

“Then Mr. Sonny says to me, ‘Do you want to work for me?’ He needed someone and I was the man and have been doing this for the last four or five years,” McCall said.

McCall speaks sadly of his wife, Shirley, passing six years ago. Their two children, Demetria Billings and Winfred McCall, are not far away. Winfred is the sheriff in Macon County, Ga.

Joy Childers recalls arriving in Helena in 1977 and getting to know Mr. Zodie at the store located where Jet Pep is today.

“My girls would walk over and say ‘Mr. Zodie, I’m thirsty,’ and he would give them sodas and candy,” Childers said.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child and, for us, Mr. Zodie was part of that village,” said Childers.

More recently, Cathy Vanderkamp and her daughters, Hunter and Parker, waiting for the schoolbus, visited with Mr. Zodie as he passed their driveway. He gave each of the girls a dollar, explaining that usually he has candy with him, but he had run out.

“People tell me they like that I wave at them and always have a smile on my face,” McCall said.

Mr. Zodie’s clean way of life extends to his habits.

“I don’t cuss, drink or smoke. No dope, ever,” he said.

He credits this to being raised around older people, having grown up in a merged family of 18 children. McCall has attended church at Kingwood for the past 14 years.

“The good Lord gave me the strength and love to pass out to the people and that’s what I’m going to do,” said McCall. “As I like to say, I’m blessed by the best.”

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.