CORINNA, Maine — The theft of his bicycle may have crushed the spirits of Everett “Ebbie” Rockwell, but they soared again Friday when a veterans group presented him with a new bike to replace the one stolen Sunday.
The bicycle was presented to the 56-year-old Rockwell by the American Legion Post 30 of Camden outside the store where his was stolen. Post Commander Ron Rainfrette said that when members learned of Rockwell’s plight they immediately raised the money to get him a new bike.
“He was so tickled to get the bike, and we were happy to do it,” Rainfrette said Friday. “We look to help out anyone we can. It doesn’t have to be veterans, and it was obvious this man needed some help.”
Rockwell has been riding his bike around town since he was a young boy. Twice a day he could be seen pedaling through town, removing returnable cans and bottles from roadsides and dropping them off at local stores.
He was doing that Sunday when he stopped at Robinson’s Mobil Mart for a half-hour visit only to find his bike missing when he stepped back outside. Rockwell, who has cerebral palsy and is deaf and mute, collapsed into the arms of clerk Vicki Parker, tears streaming down his face, when he realized his bike was gone.
Townspeople immediately reacted with shock and compassion. It didn’t take long for collection jars to start showing up, and when the news media picked up on the story, it caused a statewide outrage.
“When I saw that, I felt like crying myself,” Rainfrette said.
Rainfrette said he called the store and offered to make up the difference for any donations. He called Pat’s Bike Shop in Brewer and told them to hold the same model Raleigh bicycle that Rockwell’s family had given him a year ago. Because of his disabilities, Rockwell cannot manipulate hand brakes and needs a single-speed bike with coaster brakes. His new bike is the same as the one that was stolen, only a different color.
“He was kind of shocked, excited and surprised, just a whole mixture of emotions. It was pretty special,” Rockwell’s sister Betty Floyd said of the moment Ebbie was handed the bike. “We’re very, very honored that the veterans would do this for him. We don’t know anybody in Camden that we’re aware of, and yet they did this. We’re very grateful.”
Floyd said her brother has been riding around town since he was a child and never had anyone bother his bicycle. She said he was very upset and that the theft “made the citizens of Corinna and his friends very angry. We can’t imagine how anyone could do that.” She added that from now on, Ebbie will be securing his bike.
“It’s not something that we had to do in the past, but we got him a lock,” Floyd said. “He has stiffness in his hands and can’t work a combination lock, so we got him one with a key. He has that on the new bike.”