COARSEGOLD – We first encountered Waving Man more than a year ago, back in August of 2013, when reader Sherri Buchanan wrote in to SNO on Facebook. She said she had often wondered about the tall, grey-bearded man who spent weekday mornings with one hand in the air, standing off to the side of Highway 41.
Some might question his sanity as he walks and waves, but Sherri only questioned the identity of the person referred to as Waving Man. Read the original story here.
It turns out that man is Bill Briggs, and now Mr. Briggs has let us know that it’s time for him and Mrs. Briggs, aka his wife Mary of nearly 39 years, to say, “Goodbye, Coarsegold” and “Hello, San Jose.”
It’s more like “See you later, Coarsegold,” and “Nice to see you again, San Jose,” as Bill and Mary Briggs are moving back to the place from which they moved to the foothills some seven years ago.
You’ll see Waving Man at the crossroads of Highway 41 and Road 425C, beside the southbound lane, every morning until Saturday, Oct. 4, which is when the Briggses will hit the road for the big move.
What’s the main reason the couple want to make sure they still know the way to San Jose (extra points if you now hear Dionne Warwick in your head, “Wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wo wohhhh…”)?
Grandkids. Kids and grandkids. The Briggses are proud parents to four boys, and have a total of five grand-kids to spoil, ranging in age from 3 to 16. Not all of the kids live in San Jose, but enough loved ones do reside thereabouts that Bill and Mary are willing to pack in the country life of Coarsegold to be closer to their kids. And shopping.
When Bill and Mary moved here seven years ago, they didn’t know anyone but they quickly found a foothill family in the Lutheran Church, where both played Clarion Bells and the mister sang in the choir. Their community connections quickly grew from there.
Mary was part of a tight-knit knitting circle in Oakhurst, one that made lap blankets for non-ambulatory veterans of military service. Bill and his friends at the Elks helped distribute the blankets to vets who would each vie for their favorite.
Bill and Mary retired before moving to Coarsegold, and they bought what some people refer to as Daffodil House, where more than 10,000 of the bright yellow flowers bloom in a riotous concert of color every spring. There were thousands of daffs already in the ground when the couple bought the place, agreeing that the Lutheran Church would have access to the charming Gazebo in the center of the property. The Briggses added about a thousand more.
Bill Briggs has been an active volunteer with Citizens On Patrol (COPs) for more than two years, logging 575 hours in 2013, he says.
In February of this year, Briggs had a stroke while doing his duty as a COP. His partner recognized the signs pretty much right away: Briggs was slurring his words as the right half of his face refused to hold its shape. She drove the reluctant Briggs first to the doctor, then to the hospital. Briggs, a Vietnam Vet who sits on the Board for Caring Vets of America, has made a terrific recovery.
Most days, he’s still out waving, something he’s had a passion for since he first moved to Coarsegold. Waving Man wants to thank all the people who have waved back at him at these years; he says it has warmed his heart.
Briggs says some people will give a little honk if they see he isn’t looking, and there’s one guy in a black car who gives him the finger every day. Briggs is a guy who laughs readily and seems not easily offended; when asked, he agrees that he admires the gesturing gentleman’s consistency.
While we sat at the Briggs’ kitchen table a few days before the move, Dana Dean Moody, Co-Owner of KM Moving Services, packed up their entire kitchen with careful efficiency, occasionally asking questions of the couple, who seemed fairly unfazed by the boxes around them, and their impending move.
Mr. Briggs talked about the joy that being Waving Man has given him.
“Everybody that drives by as I’m waving makes me feel good,” says Briggs, who really has enjoyed being Waving Man as much as people have enjoyed him. “Thank you all for being so kind,” continues the people-loving-person.
Bill may miss the mountains a little more than Mary, it seems, though neither of them will miss the huge amount of labor required to maintain the property.
Fortunately for the couple and their buyer, the house is currently in escrow and the new owners plan to take care of the daffodils, just as the Briggses have, and as the owners did who originally planted the sunny fields many years ago.
Soon they’ll be immersed in soccer games, swim meets and baby seats. They’re taking Buddy, the sweet male brindle that found Bill while they were both out walking years ago. They’re moving into a lovely mobile home community and plan to visit the foothills occasionally, perhaps in spring when the daffodils are in bloom.
So if you see him in the next couple of days, give an extra wave to Waving Man, and know that he’s already figuring out where precisely he’ll be waving from in San Jose.
See you later, Mr. and Mrs. Briggs; thank you and best wishes!