Imagine this: you’re rushing to get your whole family ready for the day. Your kid isn’t dressed yet, and no one has time for breakfast. By the skin of your teeth, you manage to get everyone in the car on time. You get ten feet out of your driveway aaaand your car breaks down.
For some people, this scenario would simply mean running late — an inconvenience at worst. So when Candice Berry’s car broke down, she never expected her car troubles would change the way she saw the world for the rest of her life.
Every day, single mom Candice Berry drove her son Jace to school in their hometown of Mustang, Oklahoma, before heading off to work. These car rides gave the duo a chance to catch up, but one ride didn’t go quite as planned.
To make the ride possible, she bought a new truck in early 2019, but it quickly started giving her trouble. “The brakes need to be changed as well as the purge valve. And then also my speedometer is off,” she said in February.
Of course, it was completely unsafe to drive her son around without proper brakes, and she could easily rack up tickets without a working speedometer. There was only one solution: find a mechanic.
Unfortunately, every shop that Candice called was charging her much more than she could afford at the time. She realized she had to start saving up, but she had no other means of transportation and didn’t know how to get Jace to school in the meantime.
So, in a desperate attempt to find a cheaper rate, she called one more auto-repair shop: Hard Luck Automotive Services. This time, she spoke to a man named Adam Ely, who had been running the shop for several decades. As it turned out, he knew exactly what to do.
After hearing all about Candice’s car trouble, he assessed what new parts she needed and how he’d have to replace them. But when she asked him how much it would cost, Adam gave her a shocking price that didn’t make sense to her at all.
At first, she thought it was a mistake, but then he went on to explain: he was only charging her for the parts, not for the labor! Candice couldn’t believe what she was hearing! Why would a stranger help her out like this? And how could he afford to work for free?
Not only did he promise to fix the truck for free, but he also offered to do it as soon as possible. Candice recalled, “In a second, he said, ‘Yeah, you want to meet now? You wanna meet next week?’ Very quick – and I needed that because I needed my brakes.”
As a matter of fact, Candice wasn’t the first person to benefit from Adam’s kindness; she was one of the hundreds whom he helped like this. “We offer our services free to those in need,” his garage’s website stated. “If you are able to buy the parts, if we can fix it, we will. For free labor.” But how was this possible?
The plan all started when he got out of the military, where he’d worked as a mechanic. Feeling lost back on the homeland, he longed to use his skills for a good purpose: helping people. It gave him — and those he worked with — a ton of joy.
Moreover, the local auto parts stores often gave him a break on their side of the deal. In fact, some salesmen even used their employee discounts to make the parts cheaper for Adam, leaving the final bill smaller than anywhere else.
All the positive attention helped Adam’s cause. “My wife and I do this because we can,” he wrote on his website. “It doesn’t cost us anything but our time. We have been blessed and have met some of the best people since starting Hard Luck Auto Services.”
So, if he wasn’t charging anybody for labor, how did he make end’s meet? Well, most of his income came from the Veteran Association due to his lasting knee injuries. When his family needed a little extra cash, his wife sold T-shirts with their very own logo!
When he wasn’t getting greasy under the hood of a car, Adam attended college classes to study special education for children with disabilities. He didn’t have any kids with disabilities himself though — all he wanted was to help others.
That said, there was only so much Ely could do with such a busy schedule and a limited budget. Still, “I’ve never turned anyone away,” he said. “I don’t care about economic status, race or creed. I don’t even care if people take advantage; I will help them.” So, finally, it was time for someone to help him.
Candice was absolutely thrilled that he was coming to her house to fix her car, so she cooked up a little plan that would ensure he would leave her garage just as happy as she was. A few phone calls later, Adam walked into the shock of a lifetime.
As soon as he set foot in Candice’s garage, Adam was met by the local news station’s film crew, as well as some representatives of the organization Pay It Forward. While the latter presented him with a $400 check, Candice explained she nominated him as a local hero.
It was true: Adam inspired many, including Candice’s son Jace. “I want to do the same thing as Adam because I just want to make the world a better place like he does,” the boy said. He even asked if he could assist Adam, who appreciated all the kind words.
See, Adam was called a hero before, due to his time in the military, but that experience only left him with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It wasn’t until he got busy helping people and studying that his nightmares began to fade, and this surprise confirmed he was doing the right thing.
Seeing a smile on her rescuer’s face made Candice happy, too. “I’m grateful to be able to give this to him,” she said. “I can’t think of a better person who takes time away from his family from things he could be doing for himself for strangers. I’m just so grateful.”
Before she knew it, Candice’s truck was fixed, so she could drive her son to school again. And with the story going viral, donations from fellow veterans, locals, and car-fanatics have been rolling in to make life and work easier for Adam.
While the two never formally met, Adam had a lot in common with a mechanic a few thousand miles away from him. Maybe one day, this Oklahoma hero will listen to the tale of San Diego’s Highwayman, who became a local legend himself.
When Christin Ernst was barreling down the highway, a pesky screwdriver foiled her commute plans. The air went out of her just as quickly as her deflated tire as she found herself sitting on the side of the road next to her car.
Patricio Marco / Flickr
Little did Christin know, she wouldn’t be waiting long. In just a matter of minutes, a savior behind the wheel of a magical white classic car pulled up beside her. With a tip of his cowboy hat, he grabbed the tire iron.
In what felt like no time at all, the mysterious, husky-voiced Good Samaritan had replaced the tire. Before tipping his hat to leave, he handed Christin a business card that left her more curious about the identity of the white knight.
Carly Carpenter / Flickr
The card read: “Assisting you has been my pleasure. I ask for no payment other than for you to pass on the favor by helping someone in distress that you may encounter.”
Value America / YouTube
Who was this guy? What kind of person chooses to make a habit out of car trouble acts of kindness? Surely, a person of such high moral fiber had to have a hidden angle? Nope.
Helping others came naturally to Thomas Weller. Long before this cowboy’s hair turned silver, he was just an inexperienced 16-year-old driver cruising down snowy Illinois streets. He learned the hard way that he shouldn’t drive during a blizzard.
Lunaryuna / Flickr
Thomas’ car skidded into a snowbank. It was dark, temperatures were dropping, and the accumulating snow was obscuring his car from sight. He was in danger of being buried forever.
Evgeny Chulyuskin / Flickr
Luckily, after several icy hours, a kind stranger noticed the car wedged in the snowbank and stopped to help. Together, Thomas and the stranger attached a chain to his car and pulled it free.
The Chilliwack Progress / Flickr
Thomas felt compelled to thank the stranger, but he’d held his hands up in protest of a cash offer. Instead, the thoughtful stranger left him with a request that Thomas would never forget…
Adee H / Flickr
“Pass it on when you can.” Thomas repeated the words over 50 years later, and it was obvious he held that instruction with reverence, like a knight sworn an oath.
Over the next half a century, Thomas lived up to his promise. Cruising the San Diego highways in his supped up 1955 Ford station wagon christened Beulah, Thomas surveyed the motorways for drivers in need of assistance.
San Diego Union Tribune
Since his car was far from ordinary — it resembled the notorious “Ectomobile” from Ghostbusters — Thomas gained a reputation for his self-appointed guardianship of the motorways.
“San Diego Highwayman” is printed on Beulah’s window as well as on Thomas’ hard hat. He’s become a regular fixture along the crowded interstates. He’s particularly well known by the close to 6,000 motorists he’s estimated to have assisted.
Joined by his co-pilot, a Labrador Collie mix named Sheila, he swoops in on cars lining the shoulder who might need a helping hand. Though it’s a good idea to leave it up to the professionals, Thomas knows his stuff.
Beulah functions as the Highwayman’s lair. Packed in the seatless back cab are all the essentials: a tool kit, hacksaw, crowbar, stretcher, heavy duty jacks, and a so-far unused birthing kit, among many other odds and ends.
Though he stopped his EMT training just short of certification, he remained covered by the Good Samaritan law, allowing him to provide emergency care without liability. Thankfully, the average stops involved running out of gas or overheating, but sometimes situations were a little hairier…
In the scariest incident, he shepherded a family away from their stalled car, then watched horrified as another vehicle crashed through the place they’d stood seconds before. The family’s car exploded, and the driver of another nearby vehicle was killed.
But frequent brushes with death never kept Thomas from jumping in to assist. He’d cut back on his hours due to increasing gas prices but didn’t hang up Beulah’s keys. But then, in 2011, fate hit the breaks.
Beloved Beulah suffered an accident. The situation was grim. Thomas watched as his pride and joy, totaled and too expensive to repair, was loaded onto a trailer and towed off to rest peacefully in the garage.
For five years, Beulah collected dust in a lonely garage. Thomas felt equally as shelved as his trusty steed without being able to do his life’s work. “I sit home on the front porch a lot,” he said. “It’s killing me.” But this wasn’t to be his final chapter.
Schan Hogan / Flickr
The community who knew and loved the Highwayman refused to watch him fade into the sunset. Local radio shows invited him on as a guest to share roadside rescue stories. There was even a documentary made to detail his humble service.
After hearing his story on the radio, listener Rick Moore was particularly moved by the Highwayman’s unbridled commitment to helping others. As luck would have it, he was in a position to offer some assistance of his own.
Value America / YouTube
Rick, a local mechanic, decided the time had come to repay the Highwayman for his service by repairing Beaulah for free. “You’ve got people who help out, here and there,” he said, “but 50 years? Who does something like that for 50 years consistently?”
Finally, on June 26th, 2015, Rick was able to give the Highwayman a long overdue “thank you” from all the San Diego motorists. The gesture moved the stoic cowboy to tears.
“In the 49 years that I’ve been doing what I do, I’ve learned that a lot of people’s intentions are good but not everybody follows through,” Thomas said. He swallowed the lump in his throat trying to express his gratitude.
San Diego Union Tribune
Rick pulled into the driveway of the Highwayman’s Roost (yes, that is really the name of Thomas’ house). While waiting in the driveway for the return of his noble steed, Robert’s tears started flowing.
Marveling at how the classy chassis had been returned to her former glory, the Highwayman wrapped Rick in an emotional hug. Rick told Thomas thanks wasn’t necessary, he was just following in the Highwayman’s footsteps.
Value America / YouTube
Thomas, humble as ever, shrugged. His voice breaking with emotion, he read the motto engraved on a crystal kept on the dash, “If I cannot do great things, I’ll do small things in a great way.”
San Diego Tribune