Community comes together to help local man
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
For the first time in nearly 34 years, Dwight Looney of Falkville is standing on his own two feet.
Looney, 62, was in a motorcycle accident in 1972 that resulted in the complete loss of his left leg. Since that time, Looney has used crutches to remain mobile.
"I've been on crutches the whole time and now the doctor said my shoulders are just out for good," Looney explained. "I just had to get off the crutches because the doctor said shoulders were not made for walking."
While Looney had tried three different prosthetic legs in the past, he could not find one that did not cause intense pain or that fit properly. Without his crutches, Looney thought his only option to remain mobile was in a motorized wheelchair.
"I like to go and be active and happy," Looney said. "Whenever I've been down, I've been great at getting back up again. I was just afraid if I ever got down in that wheelchair I'd never get back up again."
Looney's church family at Roundtop Community Church feared the same for their friend, neighbor, and Sunday school teacher. So when church member Joyce Wilhite found a solution to Looney's problem, the entire congregation and community agreed to help.
"Joyce and Phil Wilhite were watching a home makeover show and saw a man who got a bionic leg," Looney recalled. "Joyce called the company who made it and asked if they would help me and they said they would."
The Wilhites and Arthur and Barbara Summerford made both trips with Looney to Akron, Ohio, to be fitted for and presented with his new prosthetic leg at Yankee Bionics. Virgil Wilhite, a close friend of Looney's, even loaned them his car to make one of the trips.
Looney walked on his own into his home Dec. 17, 2005.
"This is the best, safest leg I've ever had," Looney said. "I'm just thrilled with it."
The bionic prosthesis Joyce had seen on television would have cost $50,000, but Looney said he just wanted something good to walk on. The prosthesis he received cost $27,000 and is made of plastic, steel and silicone. It has a locking feature that prevents Looney from falling.
"I'm still learning how to walk on it," Looney explained. "I just didn't believe I would ever get a leg that would fit. I didn't think it would ever happen. It's just amazing."
Looney is also amazed that his church family volunteered to raise the 20 percent of the cost of his new prosthesis not covered by Medicare, which totaled approximately $5,400.
"The folks around here took on a pretty big chunk to fill," Looney said. "It surprised me and I'm so grateful. I thank God for the church up here and what the folks in the community have done for me."
Arthur Summerford said Looney would do the same for any of them. "We just wanted to help him all we could," Summerford said. "No is not in Dwight's vocabulary. He's a special person."
Looney helped his brother-in-law with television repair as a hobby for 10 years at Hartselle TV, but has been on disability since his accident that has resulted in 60 surgeries on his leg, shoulders, stomach, and other internal organs so far.
"I have to stay active though," Looney explained. "I've tried my best to do what everyone else does. I've made a garden every year and I love to fish."
He and his wife Emma Merle, who married one year following his accident, have two daughters and sons-in-law and three grandchildren.
"Two of his grandbabies were at the house when he came walking in with his new leg," Summerford recalled. "They were just amazed to see their granddaddy walking. His oldest daughter had never even seen him walk on his two own legs."
Roundtop Community Church and Looney's Falkville High School class of 1963 classmates have contributed to the remaining cost owed on his new prosthesis, but a large portion is yet to be paid.
A benefit singing will be held Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. at Roundtop Community Church featuring The Fellowship Quartet and Glory Road Quartet.
All proceeds will go towards the full payment of Looney's prosthesis.
For more information or to make a donation, contact Roundtop Community Church at 784-5060.