He probably didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of a lifelong relationship the 81-year-old would have with Shocco.
And on Friday, a chapel at Shocco’s Adventure Camp was dedicated in his honor.
The Robert C. Weaver Chapel grew out of a conversation he had with Shocco Executive Director Buster Taylor. They talked of needs at Shocco, and soon Weaver went to work on building a chapel.
He funded the construction, and he helped bring in volunteers from around the Southeast to build it – Roving Volunteers In Christ’s Service, Campers On Mission, Servants on Wheels Ever Ready, Mobile Missionary Assistance Program, Carpenters for Christ from Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Ala., Men and Central Alabama Christian Builders.
Friday’s dedication ceremony, ribbon cutting and luncheon made the naming of the chapel that was pressed into service in June official.
Called “A Celebration of Blessing,” the ceremony featured almost a dozen speakers who paid tribute to Weaver, who helped start Camp Shocco for the Deaf, has had continuing involvement in programs at Shocco and saw the need for a chapel and had it built.
His accomplishments have reached far beyond Shocco, speakers noted. His good works could be found throughout Talladega, the area, state and nation.
He once was featured in Newsweek Magazine’s “In Search for Outstanding Good Neighbor in America” series and was the recipient of the National Pioneer in Deaf Ministries Award.
In Newsweek, he was quoted as saying, “I don’t hit any home runs, I just do little things.”
Those ‘little things’ have added up over the years.
He designed and helped place a monument on the Talladega Courthouse lawn to honor those who have served on the USS Talladega, a ship that sailed in three wars and transported four Marines for the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima.
His involvement with youths at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, beginning as a volunteer for the blind school’s weightlifting program in 1960, has spanned almost five decades.
At age 40, he took sign language classes and founded and directed Talladega Community Church for the Deaf. He spearheaded the building of AIDB’s Hawkins Chapel, specially designed for deaf and blind.
At the 1983 National Prayer Breakfast attended by President Ronald Reagan, he was the driving force behind a blind student from Samford singing the Lord’s Prayer while two Alabama School for the Deaf students sang the song in sign language.
Because of Reagan’s penchant for jelly beans, Weaver had students make a picture of the sign language symbol for “I love you” out of jelly beans. And they received a note of thanks personally from the president.
He has been a source of encouragement and a mentor for countless youths. Weaver presented a boy with a ukulele once to help him build self confidence. The boy, now a man, expanded his talents in guitar and other instruments, and while he could not be at the ceremony, officials played a song he wrote for Weaver that featured the line, “It would take a better man than I to fill Robert Weaver’s shoes.”
A video, “Reflections on a Faithful Servant,” depicted Weaver’s life of service to others.
Dr. Chip Armstrong talked of Weaver’s dreams coming to fruition – helping the blind to bowl, thousands of Boys Scouts from the across Southeast hiking the Odom Scout Trail at Mt. Cheaha, Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapel services on Sunday nights, first All Deaf Fellowship of Christian Athletes conference and Hawkins Chapel at AIDB.
AIDB President Terry Graham spoke about Weaver’s years of service and his impact on the institute and its students. He said he is known by many names because of his unrivaled volunteerism, but Graham’s own title for Weaver was summed it all up -- “good man.”
The AIDB “Volunteer of the Year” bears Weaver’s name as its first recipient. So does the Weaver Citizenship Award, an honor students bestow on one of their peers.
Mayor Brian York proclaimed Friday as Robert Weaver Day, and Bryan Townsend said Weaver’s life was an example of “serving God by serving people.”
By his own count, Weaver has written hundreds of Bible lessons to teach the Gospel, “and that’s the Gospel,” he told the audience of more than 100 in attendance.
He reminisced about the children he has taught over the years. He asked one child a question about heaven, he said, and the child surprised him by giving the right answer. Weaver asked how he knew the answer, expecting him to say, the Bible.
But the child replied, “You taught me.”
A series of anecdotes on other lives Weaver has touched and the dreams he turned into reality for his community filled the program.
As for the Robert C. Weaver Chapel that now stands on a piece of land once home to only a woodsy area of Shocco Springs, Weaver’s assessment was a simple one: “God still answers prayers.”