WAGRAM — Ricky Allen Smith loved waving at passersby; he liked drinking Mountain Dew, having a cigarette and passing the time on an old bench on Main Street.
Disabled since a near-fatal car accident in his late teens, the 58-year-old Smith died last week after being hit by a car on Main Street, leaving a family and a neighborhood of people grieving his death.
An accident report on Thursday’s accident was unavailable Monday afternoon from the Wagram Police Department. Family members said the driver who hit Smith stopped when the accident happened.
Smith lived with his brother, Jerry Ray Williams and Williams’ wife, Sue, for about 20 years after the death of Smith’s father. Jerry said a car accident in the late 1970s damaged his brother’s brain stem and at the time, doctors didn’t give the family any hope that he would survive. After being in a coma for eight months, Ricky was left with permanent physical injuries, including significant short-term memory loss.
For the rest of his life, Ricky used a cane — refusing, his sister-in-law Sue said, to use a walker. He made his way around town every day and from the weather worn green bench where he usually sat, he drank his soda, waved to everyone and signalled tractor-trailer drivers to blow their horns. They often obliged.
The accident happened around 9:30 Thursday morning, according to Sue, who had dropped him off at his favorite resting place, the bench that sits across the street from Mid-South Gun Shop on Main Street. About 20 minutes later she learned her brother-in-law’s fate when a friend told her about the accident just down the street near the corner of Main and McKay streets.
As news spread,tributes started coming in via social media.
“They’re used to giving him a Mountain Dew, handing him a cigarette,” Sue said.
The green bench became a place for acquaintances to leave memorials — flowers, a can of soda but it was a note from an anonymous writer that particularly touched the family.
“It’s comforting to think you live on in the hearts of those you knew. I didn’t know you as well as others in the community, but you’ve always been a comforting presence. I’m sorry your life was cut off the way it was. I hope you live on in paradise forever. Have fun, Ricky,” the note said.
Jerry said he and his younger brother used to tease each other — but at times he was more like one of his kids than his brother.
“Everybody in Wagram knew him, everybody liked him, he didn’t cause any trouble,” Williams said.
Down the street from the bench is a the neighborhood convenience store, Nic’s Pic Kwik at the corner of Main and McKay streets. Regular customers and cashiers knew him well, including Jane Smith, who knew him for about eight years.
“He wasn’t a mean person. He was a very nice person. He was kind. He would come up here and sit some time. He wasn’t any harm. Everybody liked him. He will be missed,” said Smith, no relation.
From the counter at the gun shop down the street, Philip Futrell said Ricky was always friendly.
“Ricky was alright. He would always call me old man when I would walk out there. He didn’t bother anybody,” Futrell said. “He just sat over there and waved at everybody.”
John Greene agreed.
“All he did was wave at you in the morning when you’d come in,” Greene said.”
State Rep. Garland Pierce lives close to where Ricky’s bench sits. He has known him a long time and said he will miss Smith’s happy demeanor.
“He was our official greeter for the town of Wagram. That’s the name I’m going to give him because every time he was out there, he was waving, he always was in a good positive attitude and he was just a nice guy,” Pierce said. “It seems like he didn’t have a care in the world. He made the best of his situation.”