To say Walter Sumner is an Alljoy establishment is a little bit of an understatement.
Lovingly referred to as Wally and recognized for cruising round in a golf cart with the household’s pet pig, Miss Lila, the grasp carpenter has been the group’s right-hand-man for many years. Sumner and his spouse, Diane Owens, and, in fact, Miss Lila, reside within the eclectic Bluffton neighborhood, residing in one of many very first fish camps referred to as “The Fiddler Home.” Located by a close-by touchdown meant Wally all the time got here to the rescue when folks wanted assist.
Laura Wilson, an in depth household buddy and neighbor, mentioned she jokingly launched Wally to a neighborhood pastor as “the sheriff and mayor of Alljoy.” And in typical Wally wit, he ran with the joke by no means letting on that no such place existed within the unincorporated nook of Bluffton.
“Wally is sort of that individual to us down right here, he’s simply that regular Eddie man,” she mentioned.
That sort of man who has most likely labored on a lot of the fish camps in Alljoy or has invited a brand new neighbor to a Lowcountry boil or has dropped off his well-known selfmade hash. Even North Carolinians have lauded him for his craftsmanship, which comes with honesty and equity.
However since Could 24, he’s been removed from the tight-knit group that depends on him.
Days earlier than, he’d been having shoulder and neck ache. Nothing out of the bizarre, actually, and particularly for somebody doing arduous carpentry work. In typical Wally style, he informed those that have been involved that he was “tremendous” and the ache would go away. But it surely didn’t. Matthew Shoemaker, who mentioned Wally is his “first name” when something in his residence goes awry, drove Wally to an orthopedic physician in Savannah.
“As Walter opened the door to get out, he crumbled,” Wilson mentioned. “He tried to face however the stroke was already beginning.”
When Wally was settled right into a mattress within the intensive care unit about two days after being rushed to Memorial Health hospital in Savannah, Wally checked out Diane, weak and with out solutions: “I don’t know what’s occurring, however I wish to reside,” he informed his spouse when he may nonetheless communicate.
It was decided that Wally had suffered a spinal stroke — a uncommon situation the place blood move to the backbone is blocked. It’s left him paralyzed from the neck down. He’s required a feeding tube for nourishment, a tracheostomy that’s often hooked as much as a ventilator to assist him breathe and non permanent dialysis to help his kidneys. Wally wanted surgical procedures, numerous assessments and a number of MRIs.
The worth tag of care grew quickly and received a good larger blow shortly into his hospital keep.
Three days after Wally was admitted, the workplace his spouse had labored at for over 10 years unexpectedly closed its doorways. The couple is with out a constant paycheck and insurance coverage protection. A protracted highway to restoration, one which requires Wally’s future placement in a spinal twine harm rehabilitation heart, stretches out earlier than them.
Rehabilitation, which his household hopes will be on the Shepherd Heart in Atlanta, will start after he’s absolutely weened off the ventilator. On Saturday, Wally’s household and associates mentioned he goes on and off the ventilator to strengthen his lungs, although it utterly wears him out. He’s nonetheless within the ICU.
On Friday, Diane had a shiny piece of reports: “Wally is ready to raise his left arm and place it on his stomach.”
“I noticed you progress your arm,” she informed her husband at his ICU mattress. “That’s superior!”
Rallying for Wally
Similar to Wally would need it — those that know him, those that don’t and those that will meet him — gathered at Low-cost Seats Tavern 2 in Bluffton for a corn gap event.
“Oh, corn gap, horseshoe and there could be winter campfires,” mentioned Mandy Dunn, who helped set up the occasion and went to high school with Wally’s son.
It was typical, she mentioned, to return residence to a wonderfully manicured garden.
“You chop my grass?” Dunn would ask Wally.
“Certain did,” he’d reply.
“That’s Wally,” Dunn mentioned Saturday as she collected raffle tickets.
That relentless kindness was nothing out of the bizarre for son Weston Sumner rising up. His father, his superman, the sunshine of Alljoy. He mentioned his father has been in the identical Alljoy home for the reason that mid-Nineteen Eighties and has all the time put neighbors first.
When Weston received the information from his New York residence, the phrases “father” and “hospital” have been instantly alarming. His father was by no means the sort to go to the hospital. He flew down instantly and moved into a close-by rental in Bluffton.
“I wish to be the son to him like the daddy he’s to me,” Weston mentioned Saturday on the tavern.
Even earlier than the occasion started, meant to lift cash for Wally and Diane, the tavern had swelled with practically 100 folks. Some measured how far corn gap boards have been spaced. Others scribbled their names on tickets for dozens of raffle gadgets, together with helicopter rides, golf video games and dolphin excursions.
“We have been sitting collectively on a Sunday and mentioned, ‘We’re gonna do that,’” mentioned Joyce Cooper, who was on the organizing helm that took a brief three weeks.
Cooper has recognized Wally for about 20 years, a friendship that started when the 2 labored development collectively. Since then, they’ve executed St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, an occasion the place Wally dyes his beard Irish inexperienced, yearly. And don’t overlook Bluffton Christmas. She couldn’t recall a time they hadn’t dressed up for both.
Then there have been those that have by no means recognized Wally.
Name it Southern hospitality or Bluffton appeal, however everybody who got here by the tavern wished to find out about him. What was the occasion for, they questioned. How may they assist?
Everybody was desperate to know the way he was progressing. Some mentioned higher. Others responded in additional hushed tones. Shoemaker referred to as it treading water — that every day is inching progress.
His “progress is sluggish and regular identical to Wally,” mentioned longtime buddy Kathleen O’Carroll.
“He desires to reside,” Diane mentioned, repeating her husband’s needs. And she is going to do the whole lot to make that occur.
If making his restoration down the highway simpler requires retrofitting the golf cart by taking out a seat and changing it with a wheelchair, then that’s what they’ll do as soon as he will get out of a rehabilitation heart. With Miss Lila driving and all.
This story was initially printed July 23, 2022 5:01 PM.
Sarah Haselhorst, a St. Louis native, writes about local weather points alongside South Carolina’s coast. Her work is produced with monetary help from an Vitality Basis grant. She graduated from College of Missouri — Columbia, the place she studied journalism and sociology. Beforehand, Sarah frolicked reporting in Jackson, Mississippi; Cincinnati, Ohio; and mid-Missouri.