It was owned and operated at that time by W.B. and Lautrell Anderson. Everyone in the city of Woodstock knew W.B. one way or another. He was a regular at Dean’s Store before his death several years ago.
But there was another man in Woodstock that most knew who had worked for W. B. for many years. His name was Norris Reece.
Norris was in charge of the service end of the business doing what he could to keep the customers happy. He was literally the face of Woodstock Gas Company for many years.
When I first began working for the company, I started out on the truck with Norris helping him do service work.
It was a complete privilege working for Norris because the lessons I learned from him went far beyond the gas business. And to say it was a complete privilege is no exaggeration.
The time would have been during the 1980s and before the big economic boom of the ‘90s. No one was getting rich and our business dictated we deal with people of all economic levels.
Whether the customer was rich or poor, they were always glad to see Norris because he treated them all the same. We spent many hours digging ditches, installing gas tanks, cleaning and lighting heaters, and many other facets of the job.
But there were two facets of the job where I learned the most from Norris.
The most important was the way he dealt with the people in the community.
Make no mistake. We were in business to make money. There were numerous times that he and I were sent to a residence to turn off their gas for non-payment.
Before we touched anything, Norris would always size up the situation. He would spend time talking to the customer and find out the reason they had failed to pay their bill.
Times were hard for many people during this period and Norris understood that.
Many, many times, after he would finish talking to the customer, Norris would say, “Let’s go Collett.”
After we would get in the truck and drive away Norris would find somewhere to pull over.
He would pull out his own wallet and take the money out to cover the customer’s bill. He would then write a receipt as if they had paid it themselves to turn in at the end of the day.
This did not happen once. It happened many times over the years that I got to know him.
Norris simply couldn’t stand to let people go without heat when they were trying to make ends meet. I asked him many times how he would feel if they didn’t pay him back.
He never failed to tell me that regardless of whether they paid him or not, he could sleep at night and would never suffer from giving.
And he never did it for the praise. He would always tell me to keep it to myself. And so I did, until now.
Norris and I spent many hours riding from one job to the next. He would talk to me about life and give me advice to help me in my own life.
Norris talked a lot about his family and his church. He was a deacon at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Woodstock.
He spoke often of his wife Joy and his sons Perry and Rob. Rob is also a long time employee of Woodstock Gas Company and he and Norris were very close.
Norris died of cancer several years ago. The exact year escapes my memory. But the world lost a good man and I lost a good friend.
I wonder sometimes if all of the people he helped in his life ever stop to think about what he did for them.
I imagine there were some that were never able to pay Norris back for the bill he paid for them. But I also don’t think he ever lost anything in the process.
Norris Reece made an impact on my life. He taught me to give without thought of receiving praise.
Just give because you can and because it’s the right thing to do.
I don’t know how many lives he touched while on earth.
But this I know. Many families stayed warm on cold winter days because Norris Reece had a huge heart.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.