During the 1980s, I was living in the mountain community of Idaho Springs, Colo. As president of the local historical society, I was distressed to see that one of our most scenic landmarks – a large water wheel – was in serious need of repair.
The wheel, which had been used in gold mining operations during the 1890s, was rotting away to such an extent that unless immediate action was taken, this fragile piece of Western history would soon be lost forever.
Dozens of volunteers stepped forward to restore the wheel. But the problem wasn’t people; it was money for materials.
Because bake sales and raffles could raise only a fraction of the $75,000 we needed, I began contacting celebrities. Letters asking for help were mailed to important people throughout the country, explaining our dire need and asking for help.
One of the first persons who responded was actor Paul Newman. To our surprise, he not only sent a generous check, he called us personally to ask if there was anything else he could do.
Throughout that summer, Newman called to check on our progress and encourage everyone involved in the project.
When the wheel was finally restored, Newman sent a second check in case we needed extra cash for maintenance.
A historic water wheel and a grateful group of people in a small town in Colorado are only a small part of his rich generosity and legacy.
When his death was announced last week, I was truly saddened. He will be missed because, in so many ways, he was one of us.
God bless you, Paul Newman.
Larry Cox reviews books and writes a weekly collectibles column for the Tucson Citizen.