At his memorial service last week, Clarence Wiley's friends wanted to pay him a fitting tribute.
So fellow tow truck driver Jeff Patten rolled Wiley's empty rig onto his own roll-back wrecker and led a procession of more than 20 tow trucks to the grave site, escorted by police officers."Even the police got out and stood at attention," Patten said. "He was very, very well respected in the community. Everybody who's in the towing business who was age 25 or over knew him."
Wiley died Jan. 9 after battling cancer. He was 73.
Anyone working in the close-knit towing community in Huntsville had likely gotten advice or help from Wiley, Patten said.
He served as a mentor for many people going into the towing business.
"He taught the fundamentals of how to operate a small business and how to respect people and how to talk to people," he said. "He taught people how to be patient and go with the flow."
Sometimes, going with the flow meant helping stranded motorists, even though they didn't have the money to pay for towing.
That was his way of walking his Christian faith, friends and family said.
"He never turned anybody down. He was always willing to help anybody who came to his door," said granddaughter Brandi Williamson. "If they were stuck on the side of the road but didn't have any money, he didn't charge them anything."
"Mr. Wiley taught every one of us something. His favorite word was 'babydoll.' He'd say 'babydoll, just stay right there - I'll take care of it.'
"He was a real good friend. He'd help anybody."
Wiley played an active role in raising his three grandchildren, who would hang out with him at the Union 76 service station he owned for many years on Governors Drive, where the Bandito Burrito restaurant sits today.
"Even at age 32, I was still calling if I had a problem, asking for Papa's help," Williamson said. "He had me and my mom spoiled. He always called us 'his girls.'"
"He had us in church every Sunday," said grandson Joshua Hargrove. "He was a very strong believer and had very strong faith in the Lord."
Wiley operated the service station for 27 years, winning several industry awards. He closed the store in the 1980s and focused on his tow truck operation. He was a big fan of racing, and supported former NASCAR driver Jimmy Means, Williamson said.
He was head deacon at Believers Fellowship full gospel church.
Wiley's wife, Jewel, died last August. He is survived by his daughter, Janet Wiley, three grandchildren, Brandi Williamson, Joshua Hargrove and Tommy Hargrove, and 10 great-grandchildren.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 73-year old Clarence Wiley, a Huntsville, AL tower, who passed away on Jan. 9 after battling cancer. Here's the tribute from The Huntsville Times:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 2:33 PM