Hand It On: Captain Willie Matthews, Jr. - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Hand It On: Captain Willie Matthews, Jr.

Source: WAFB Source: WAFB

This story is one that could be told of probably hundreds of people across our area. It’s one of survival. It’s one of compassion. It’s one of what really matters in life – helping each other cope.

You’ve seen his story on WAFB. The story of Willie Matthews, Jr. or "Captain Willie" as he is referred to now. 

Like many of you, Captain Willie’s home flooded in August. On the day the water rose and destroyed everything he and his wife knew, their entire lives, Captain Willie struck out to help rescue others in his boat. He tells the story from here: 

When I left the house Saturday afternoon , it was dry over there. One of my friends called me and said her brother was over there. So we called him and ask him if he wanted to leave. And he said no. But he called back later and said, "Yeah, I think I'd better leave because the water's getting up." So I went and got my boat. And I went and loaded the boat, and when I got back over there, somebody else had rescued him. 

So I said well I tell you what. Since I'm out here I might as well help. And I just started helping at that point. And I continued to help until, you know, it looked like everybody was out. 

And believe it or not, I picked up a crew! Three guys. One of them was a volunteer firefighter, and we loaded the boat back on the trailer and went over on Sherwood Forest. We got over there, unloaded the boat, and one of the guys had a bateau. So we tied the bateau to the back of my boat. So we'd load the bateau, and then we would load my boat and we'd bring people back out to a waiting National Guard truck. 

And there were some other folks out there with boats too at that time. We all just continued to, ya know, stay out there. I guess I must have stayed out there until about 4 o'clock that morning. And then I left there and decided to go see what was happening on Airline. We passed a police officer and he said, "Well if you want to put in the water, go up to the ramp that you would normally be coming off of on Greenwell Springs Road."  So we put in there and we went down Winbourne to Victoria Drive; we rescued some people there. 

The possibility of my house flooding did cross my mind. And the Spirit kind of spoke to me and said, "Well, you pray all the time. Walk on your faith. I got your wife." 

So I said okay and I called her and asked her what she was gonna do and she said, "Well I just got out of the tub and I'm going to bed." I said "Okay." 

And so I continued to rescue people. And like I said, about 4 o'clock that morning after we went over there on Victoria Drive, there were two National Guard guys out there. And they had a bateau with a small motor on it. And their vehicle had flooded. They were waiting for somebody to come back and get them.
And then I got a phone call and somebody said that the water was coming up into my yard. So I turned around to make my way back to my home to get my wife.

But the interesting thing was the National Guard guys? Nobody had come back to pick them up. So we loaded their bateau with the motor on it into the back of the truck, and I took them up there on Harding Boulevard where they were located and dropped them off. And then I headed to the house.

And when I got there, of course when I turned the corner I see all this water. And I turned to go in there but it got to a point I realized it was a lot deeper in the back, because we live in the very back. So I turned around and said well I might as well go ahead and launch the boat. And I launched the boat and then I started rescuing. I went and got my wife and one of the neighbors first and got them to the landing. And I started just going back-and-forth, anybody that was back there who was trying to get out of the water, we pretty much put them in the boat and took them out.

In addition my house flooding, I lost my truck; they totaled the truck even though it was drivable. I used the truck during the whole time; water got in it probably just below my knee in the truck. But when the adjuster came, he looked at the truck and I told him that nothing was wrong with the truck. But he told me it was totaled. That didn't set right with me because I figured since I drove it up there that nothing was gonna be wrong with it."

I met Captain Willie at the hotel where he has been staying since the flood. It was a rather nice morning, sunshine and cooler than most. So Captain Willie was sitting outside in a lawn chair, drinking coffee and reading his bible.

I asked Captain Willie if he had enough money to get a new truck.

"Not really." He replied. "My wife is actually looking at vehicles right now as a matter of fact."

That's when I surprised Captain Willie with our Hand It On gift.

"Well WAFB's Hand It On program wants to give you $300 so that you can start getting money for a new truck." 

"Thank you so much!" he said, noticeably surprised. "You just made my morning real good. And I'll tell you, I thank God that, you know, I was there at the right time to be able to help. Because when it's all said and done we need to understand that we all need each other. People think that they don't need nobody. But that's not true. We all need each other. Because without each other, how can we make it?"

Do you believe in angels on earth? I certainly do; I met one today. His name is "Captain" Willie Matthews, Jr.

To nominate someone for WAFB’s Hand It On program, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information, especially your phone number. 

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