GOOD MORNING! GOOD NEWS! Paved carport a homecoming surprise for Indian Lake couple

A neighbor’s thoughtful idea and a contractor’s generosity resulted in a homecoming surprise Friday evening for an area couple when they arrived at their Indian Lake area property. 

Good news Concrete work

Matt and Steve Warnecke of JMJ Cement Contractors pour concrete Friday in a carport area at the Indian Lake area residence of Robert “Butch” and Sue Smith as a surprise for the couple. (PHOTO | BEN CONTRA)

Robert “Butch” and Sue Smith received a newly paved carport area, free of charge, that will better suit Mr. Smith’s wheelchair through work performed Thursday and Friday by Steve Warnecke and his son, Matt, of JMJ Cement Contractors of Huntsville. 

The Smith’s neighbor, Ben Contra, said he needed concrete work performed at his own Buckeye Drive property. While scheduling the work for his driveway, Mr. Contra also approached Steve and Matt Warnecke with the potential project that would make his neighbors’ lives easier. 

“In addition to discussing my driveway needs, we then talked about pouring a couple spots for my neighbor Butch Smith’s driveway so Butch could move around easier in his wheelchair,” Mr. Contra explained Thursday. 

“Butch is a former OSU Buckeye football player, who suffered a stroke a few years ago and has difficulty walking on his gravel driveway. His wife, Sue, also has trouble moving Butch from his Suburban to the wheelchair in the gravel. 

“Steve suggested that instead of just doing a few landing strips, we install concrete for the whole area under and around the carport.” 

And that’s just what the father-and-son team set to work doing this week — pouring the concrete while the Smiths were away for a few days. The neighborly surprise also was provided at no additional cost to Mr. Contra.

Buckeye Drive is a fitting locale for the former football player, his neighbor noted. Mr. Smith was a member of the OSU football team under coach Woody Hayes that capped an undefeated season in 1968 by winning the national championship game Jan. 1, 1969. 

In addition to his athletic achievements, Mr. Smith and his wife have befriended Mr. Contra and other neighbors and impressed them with their positive outlook when facing recent difficulties. 

Following Mr. Smith’s stroke that severely affected his left side, he used a cane and had a heavy limp, Mr. Contra noted. After a few years in this situation, his back gave out and he had major back surgery in February. He is currently going through physical rehabilitation. 

Even when faced with these challenges, Mr. Smith is someone who is “just enjoyable to be around. 

“He has a great spirit and his morale is up,” his neighbor said. “He’s truly a guy that walks around with a smile no matter what he’s going through. He loves to be outside looking at Indian Lake and I like joining him.”

Mr. Contra has faced a some health battles of his own in recent years after being diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease at age 46. The now-54-year-old said Mr. Smith has been an inspiration to him. 

“Being diagnosed at such a young age was devastating to me. I used to do marathons, half-marathons and 5Ks.

“But Butch, in a way, is my motivation in dealing with Parkinson’s disease. Another neighbor and I mow his lawn weekly, and I know he would do anything to be able to mow it himself. 

“So, when I’m about ready to run out of steam, all I can think about is how much he would love to be able to break away from his wheelchair and mow his own lawn.”