By CHARLEY WILKISON
Co-owner of The Independent
One of the first people we met in Liberty Hill 15 years ago was Charles Canady.
He leaned in under the hood of my 1960 Chevy pickup listening to it run, took a screwdriver out of the pocket of his blue overalls and followed my finger to the problem — a 39-year-old carburetor that is now a 54-year-old carburetor.
With his head leaning down against the engine like someone tuning a guitar, he slowly turned the screwdriver until the engine smoothed out. He shook his head and doubted we could find an original, but he might be able to rebuild it. As he listened to the truck, he asked what part of Texas I was from. Said he could tell I was from Texas by the way I talked.
The world was changing, and he was open to it. The world was changing and he understood everything around him and the community he loved was up for grabs to the highest bidder. The highest bidder, he said, was likely to be someone who would never live here or really care how it all turned out. Our sons, Brandon Canady and Birk Wilkison, were in third grade together and we had big hopes and dreams for them.
As a leader on the Liberty Hill City Council for 13 years, Charles patiently listened to the strange accents of the new citizens, the different kinds of people from far away with ideas about what all he should do next. He generally handled it all with the life skills that could fix the engine in your truck, go right past politics into the philosophy behind the nature of man and right back into whether the fish were biting — all with an easy, contagious smile.
In an era when our native accent is looked down on and those who work with their hands are often dismissed as being absent of intelligence, ideas or even being well read, Charles Canady walked and talked without fear. All around him the institutions and culture of his rural hill country life were shifting. He didn’t run and he didn’t let the fancy talking city folks convince him that he was somehow less.
He believed that working in his Quick Service Garage, which was started by his great-grandfather in 1926, was an honor. He grew up working hard and repairing things that were broken because he lived in a place where folks didn’t just go buy something new. They repaired what they had and saved their money for things like college for kids or unexpected hospital visits.
When the big city media types were bored or out of ideas, they would often come to Liberty Hill to play the gotcha game looking for stories that would make light of the rural community. Or, they would hold out hope that the big city outsiders who had moved into the community could actually save it from being a little bit like Mayberry.
A 2010 article in The Independent quoted Charles remembering as a boy, before the churches were air conditioned. On Sunday mornings the windows would be wide open at the Church of Christ where he worshipped with his parents and grandparents. Between hymns he would sit quietly leaning toward the window and when the wind was just right, he could hear the music wafting over from First Baptist Church where his friends and their parents were worshiping as well. That was the Liberty Hill he loved and cherished.
Charles grew up giving back. As city councilman, mayor pro tem, a member of the Liberty Hill Cemetery Association, and a member of most every other board and commission in town, he can be credited among other things for helping to stop the unbridled annexation of the other land-hungry governments and politicians all around the Shin Oak Ridge.
Today, there would not be a Liberty Hill if not for Charles and like-minded individuals who believed the community established in the 1840’s and named by Texas Revolutionary Icon Thomas Jefferson Rusk should not wind up as a street name in Georgetown or Leander.
Locals will remember him as someone more interested in getting your car fixed than collecting the payment, and someone more interested in serving the community than being quoted in the media, shying away from self-promotion.
Although we did not always agree with Charles’ political decisions, we never doubted his sincerity or selfless interests. His wife, Kathy, has also disagreed with some of our editorial positions and news coverage over the years, but both have come to understand our stalwart position of defending the public’s interest. We have come to know Kathy as a lioness in defense of her husband and her family, and are proud that she is a member of our professional team. Her commitment to help us tell the stories of Liberty Hill with award-winning photography is an integral part of this newspaper’s success.
This brings us to the fact that Charles Canady is suffering from numerous forms of cancer that have spread throughout his body in spite of years of rigorous surgeries and treatment. Some believe tumors in his lungs, ribs, brain, spine and kidney all began when he was severely electrocuted in 2005 while working on wiring in his home. He has amazed medical professionals for many years by making comeback after comeback, even recovering from brain surgery and losing a kidney to cancer last year.
Now, he is simply fighting to leave a Round Rock hospital to return to Liberty Hill. At times during the past two weeks spent in Intensive Care, doctors have doubted whether he would make the trip home. While his family remains hopeful for his homecoming under Hospice care, his condition changes frequently and progress is carefully measured. For his family, the dawn of each new day offers both uncertainty and hope.
Although The Independent routinely contributes to area causes, we have not used our editorial privilege to make a public appeal for help to the extent that we are asking our community now. We have watched quietly as the Canady family has struggled to meet Charles’ medical expenses, exhausting all of the family’s financial resources as he has been unable to work for several years.
An account has been established at Union State Bank in Liberty Hill to assist the family in this time of serious need. The Canadys have suffered in silence, preferring to stand on their own and believe in the miracle comeback. This is a proud family that is accustomed to lending a hand instead of needing a hand.
We encourage this community to come together now and support Charles and his family with a financial contribution that will offer them some immediate relief.
For more information, or to find out how you can help, send email to us at news@LHIndependent.com or call us at (512) 778-5577.