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94-year-old WWII veteran strikes up special friendship with Woodstock bus drivers during quarantine

On his five-mile walk every day, Oley Doty managed to make friends with everyone he passed.

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — The shelter-in-place orders for COVID-19 have made many senior citizens who are residents of assisted living facilities feel isolated and alone, but a group of bus drivers in Woodstock are making sure one senior knows how much he's cared for.

Oley Doty is the first to sign up for any group activity at his assisted living home. He loves art, horses, and root beer floats. Now, he's found a whole new group of people to love - the bus drivers from the local elementary school.

No matter the weather, 94-year-old Oley never misses his morning walk.

"I see him walking on the sidewalk, and he would have his oxygen tank, and his walker, sometimes his umbrella. And he would just stop and look and wave and have a big smile, and he made my day every day," Woodstock School Bus Driver Stacey Childers said.

She got to know Oley's route as well as her own and came to depend on seeing him every day.

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Credit: Provided
Oley Doty

"He makes us all happy! Where ever he is walking, he'll hear the bus and stop and turn and wave, and smile, and it just makes everyone's day," she said. 

Though they never spoke, she figured out he had to be living at Camellia Place: Assisted Living and Memory Care located down the street.

She called them up to see if she could learn more about the man who always made her morning.

"I sent him a card to tell him we appreciate him, and he wrote me back, and I got it yesterday. And it was very nice! It was just nice to get to know who he was, this man on the sidewalk," she said. 

Oley, the man on the sidewalk, is a World War II veteran. He went on lockdown with the rest of the world when COVID-19 hit in March at his assisted living home. But Oley was restless, and even though he couldn't interact with anyone, he wanted to keep up his walking routine five miles a day.

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"It just gives me time to think and walk. I can't sit still, I guess," he said. 

It was on those daily walks that he came to know the bus drivers at Woodstock Elementary School.

At first, just by their bus numbers. Then they started writing to each other. 

"It makes me feel good when they talk to me. They're the heroes, not me," he said. 

Eventually, the drivers knew they wanted to meet Oley in person. So they worked with Camellia Place Life Engagement Coordinator Allison Suh and the elementary school to set up a safe outdoor meetup.

His daughter came to the celebration and says her Dad is blown away by their kindness.

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"He's always been a people person, but now he has a connection with the community, even though he's under quarantine. It lifts his spirits. He tells me about the people he meets every day," said his daughter, Cindy Hart. 

Oley was able to put a face to the bus numbers and names on the letters, and the bus drivers were able to thank him for all the joy he brings to their routes every day.

"I'm just tickled that we get to know him and enjoy his company," said Childers. 

"I love them! I love them all," said Oley. 

Oley told 11Alive that he plans to keep his walking routing until he is at least 100 and he hopes his new friends will continue cheering him on.