PECK, Idaho — If Christmas is a time of giving, then perhaps it's time for 85-year-old John Q. Moxley to receive. Not that he'd take anything in return for all he's given to this tiny Clearwater County canyon town.
"I've never been in it for the money," he said with a shrug. Pressed further about what he might accept, Moxley shrugged again and said, "Maybe just a card saying thank you."
It's become common knowledge among Peck residents, especially the elderly, that if you need help getting from here to there, have some chores begging to be finished, would like something built or perhaps have some recyclables that need tending, Moxley is the guy to call. It's also why he was nominated for this year's Spirit of Christmas series.
"I think I was that way all my life," the retired furniture store owner and beekeeper said about his helping ways. "But in retirement, it's had time to come out. I've got time to haul people and do things."
Peck Mayor Nancy Greene put it this way: "John has been our neighbor for almost 20 years and I have consistently witnessed his devotion to others. He spends the majority of his life helping other individuals and organizations in the Peck and Orofino area."
To that, John smiled and said, "It's the mayor who squealed on me."
Because when it comes to helping others, Moxley said, he prefers to lend a hand from behind the scenes. Thanks and accolades aren't necessary. The good feelings he gets are more than enough.
"Genes, I guess," he said, speculating about where he got his giving nature.
Moxley, a World War II veteran who was never deployed overseas, said he even refuses to collect benefits. "I don't take anything from the Veterans (Affairs) because I figure I didn't pay the price."
Mayor Greene said Moxley's attitude is exemplary and it's about time he's recognized. "His efforts are always accomplished with a positive attitude and without expectation of compensation. He's an outstanding citizen for our community. His optimistic outlook on life is heartwarming."
Moxley credits his wife of 40 years, 77-year-old Carolyn Moxley, for not only standing behind him, but also getting behind the wheel to help "haul" people around town to the doctor, shopping or other places they need to be.
"Mention that," Moxley said, explaining that the only reason he was available for an interview was because, in his absence, Carolyn was driving people here and there.
Moxley's most recent gift to the community has been the establishment of a recycling program. He credited two women for buying four garbage cans about a year ago, filling them with recyclables and then calling him when they needed to be emptied.
"Then I got hold of it," he said. Two recycling sites, complete with bins for cardboard, aluminum, paper, plastics and glass, are now stationed in town. "I don't have any money. I've spent it all," he quipped. "So all the things I built are built with recyclable materials, boards, nails, everything."
What's more, Moxley empties the bins into the back of his compact Mazda pickup truck and drives everything, free of charge, to the transfer station 15 miles away in Orofino. He never asked for city funding, Greene confirmed. "Since there is no formal recycling program in town, he decided it was important to provide an opportunity for the service."
Moxley also volunteers in Orofino at the Second Chance Animal Resource Store.
"It's a thrift store where everybody brings their clothes in, and everything else they want to dump off, and then they re-sell it," Moxley explained. Money goes toward neutering, food and other pet needs.
Moxley also delivered Meals on Wheels for more than two years and continues to, as he says, "haul people around" when they need rides. Perhaps his most satisfying chauffeuring job was a few years ago.
"I heard about these kids who were living up on the hill over here, seven of them in one family," Moxley recalled. "They were all having to walk down the hill to get the bus for school."
So Moxley volunteered his services and for more than two years shuttled the children back and forth from their home to the bus stop.
He recalled another two times when he took a woman to doctor appointments in Spokane, driving both times into the teeth of a winter storm. "We'd leave here at 5 o'clock in the morning, and both times it was snowing like hell."
Moxley said he plans to keep helping others as long as his health allows.
"I've taken good care of myself," he said. But he said longevity is also the product of a good surgeon. "I have two metal knees, one replaced hip, two shoulders operated on and I've got five stents in my heart."