Chardon — CHARDON, Ohio -- He's a beloved fixture at the Chardon Walmart and he just started three weeks ago.
It’s proven to be plenty of time for grateful shoppers to notice. Recently, Channel 3 viewers wrote to us to celebrate Freddy Davison.
Evelyn said, “I've seen customers tear up. It is awesome to see. An uplifting story like this would be a nice addition to your news broadcast."
So, we set out to see this man who moved Evelyn to write for ourselves.
There he was. Front and center at the Chardon Walmart.
Not a single customer got through without a friendly hello.
Freddy Davison, from Fairport Harbor, is a retired pastor who practices what he preaches.
“It's simple. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated," Davison said, with what we quickly realized was a trademark smile.
A smile from somewhere deeper than the surface.
"I know it sounds corny, but I believe in it. I live my life that way," he said.
Davison now just reaches people from a wheelchair, instead of a pulpit.
"When you're sitting in a chair, it kind of disarms people in general and you know, with the kids you’re at eye level," Davison said. He proved it when he said, "Hi there, youngin'," and received a big smile back from a preschool-aged girl.
It's a perfect angle to #SeeThePossible, instead of what’s not.
"I actually have found this to be an advantage not a disadvantage," Davison said from the wheelchair he uses to get around.
He can stand. But not for long anymore.
Davison was badly injured in a head-on collision in 1998 while headed to preach at a rural church near Indianapolis.
His back has never been the same. But his contagious laugh is perfectly intact.
Davison also has a phenomenally powerful and moving singing voice.
So every single time Davison sees a veteran come through the front door of the Chardon Walmart, he serenades them with the national anthem.
“Oh! It is beautiful. I could hear him singing from all the way back in the store,” said Dan Cicchella, an Air Force veteran from Chesterland.
Perfectly clear in his crisp commanding voice is Davison’s message to veterans.
“Their service matters. Their life and sacrifice matters. And I want to make sure they know they are honored," Davison said.
Not that we really needed any explanation.
To hear him is to feel the sincerity. It wells up in his eyes as he stands, temporarily out of his wheelchair, hand firmly on his heart.
It’s for the veterans who will never walk through the door as well. It’s for the veterans who didn’t, or won’t, come home.
"You can feel everything go from a busy store for just those two minutes, to complete stillness,” Davison said.
And we saw it with our own eyes. The power of one. The power to initiate reverence and respect.
Evelyn was correct.
Tears welled up in the eyes of customers who never expected a trip to Walmart could inspire and move them in this way. In the spirit of the pastor turned seemingly God-inspired friendly Walmart greeter, we pray:
Dear God, please make more Freddys. Amen.