This is a story with two main characters. First, I’ll introduce 84-year-old Delcie Elkins, a resident of Ceredo for more than 55 years. She is a generous lady with an enormous capacity for the needs of others. The other individual is her 65-year-old nephew, Clyde Blair, whose world was once restricted to the house at 809 Main St., in Ceredo. He has since been adopted by many in the town of Ceredo. The story has a supporting cast that includes Ceredo’s neighborhoods, local businesses and the mayor’s office.
In 2011, a retired Delcie Elkins walked into Ceredo City Hall to pay her water bill. She walked out with another job that would keep her busy for the next eight years.
“I was 75 when Mayor Otis Adkins asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in taking care of flowers for the town,” Elkins said. “I was retired from Owens-Illinois and had more than enough to keep busy. I had become involved with baking a lot of donated goods to support fundraisers for both Ceredo-Kenova and Spring Valley high schools, but I did love flowers, and Mayor Adkins knew it.”
Adkins was well known for his ability to recruit the best for Ceredo. Elkins believes the mayor was waiting to present the idea of a beautification project that would encompass the entire community, and he knew of Elkins’ love for flowers.
“The job begins each spring and usually lasts until the first frost,” Elkins said. “I purchase the flowers from Hatchers Greenhouse in South Point. It takes a few trips with my truck to bring them all back to Ceredo and plant them. I plant a lot of Caladiums because of their bright colors and big red heart shaped leaves. I use them generously around Paul Billups City Park. Keeping them all watered became such a problem that the city even installed a water faucet in my yard to use for filling five-gallon buckets that required six round trips. I used the faucet at the town pump station for the other three fill-ups. Normally it’s six days each week except when it gets exceptionally hot and then it became Sundays as well. I would start at 7 in the morning and usually finish around 2 using my own truck while being paid $9 an hour.”
Elkins has been working with her 63-year-old retired son, David, with plans of him taking over. Ceredo’s current mayor, Paul Billups, has approved this idea.
Now the story switches to the world of Elkins’ nephew, Clyde Blair, who came to live with his aunt 27 years ago.
“My nephew’s story is a complicated one with a lot of unanswered questions,” Elkins said. “The information I was given involved an improperly treated sickness when Clyde was quite young. This sickness resulted in an extremely high fever that caused a degree of brain damage. When his parents passed away, Clyde came to live with me.”
Elkins remembers her nephew’s early years when he would mostly stay in his room staring out the window and playing music from his large collection of old records.
“Years later, my son David got the idea of walking around the neighborhood with Clyde,” Elkins said. “Until then, he had been no farther than the front porch and yard. The walks continued for several months until Clyde was able to cross intersections and railroad crossings. He became familiar with neighbors, and after a while, he would visit shops and have lunch in the community.”
That was about 25 years ago, and now Clyde is more than just a familiar face in the neighborhood.
“For the last 23 years I have been collecting cans and keeping our neighborhood clean of litter,” Blair said. “I do this year round starting at 7 each morning. Sometime I never return home until 6 in the evening.”
Some neighbors save cans for him, and some come by and drop off cans already bagged up. He also has a few business locations that save cans for him.
“My nephew now knows more people than I do,” Elkins said. “He stops and talks with everyone he meets. He eats lunch on his own with his can money; he has a small savings account that he’s quite proud of. He’s found a joy in his life that he would never find in his bedroom.”
Truth be told, her nephew has provided a little more joy into his aunt’s life, as well.