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Plaque to ensure Charles Town homeless man is not forgotten

January 02, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Willie Diggs won't likely be forgotten in Charles Town.

But a group of local residents have put up a plaque downtown just to make sure.

Diggs was considered an institution in Charles Town and his presence extended back at least 40 years.

Diggs could be seen just about anywhere in town, munching on a snack on a street corner or basking in the sun on a bench downtown.

The 76-year-old homeless man had an unmistakable walk, dipping his body in a slow motion walk that some described as a swagger.

Diggs' presence in town came to an end when police found him dead the night of Sept. 26 in an old railroad building along Summit Point Road on the western edge of town.

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Many local residents were fond of the friendly Diggs and some citizens contributed to a fund to buy him meals, said Henry Christie, a local chiropractor and member of the Independent Fire Co.

People who knew Diggs thought about naming a bench downtown in his honor and some local residents decided to use the money that was left in the fund to help pay for a plaque to honor Diggs, Christie said.

The group cleared the idea with City of Charles Town officials and a plaque was installed on a bench in front of Stuck & Alger Pharmacy at 114 W. Washington St., Christie said.

A group of regulars at the pharmacy which Christie referred to as the "breakfast club" also were involved, Christie said.

The plaque reads "In memory of Willie Diggs. May 8, 1931 - Sept. 22, 2007. Donated by the citizens of Charles Town."

The plaque cost about $144 and was delivered to the local group of citizens on Christmas Eve, said Glenn Ramsburg, another local resident involved in the effort.

About a dozen local residents gathered at the bench in front of Stuck & Alger Pharmacy on Dec. 28 and installed it, Ramsburg said.

Ramsburg talked about Diggs' friendly nature and recalled the large number of people who attended Diggs' funeral at Jefferson Chapel Funeral Home in Ranson, W.Va.

Walter Jackson, a minister at Wainwright Baptist Church who spoke at Diggs' funeral, suggested to the crowd that Diggs' might have been sent to Earth as an angel, Ramsburg said.

When Diggs went to the old railroad building at his death, he caught a a train that "none of the rest of us saw," said Ramsburg, recalling Jackson's words.

"That really did something to you," said Ramsburg, referring to Jackson's message.

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