(KSDK) — There's an effort underway in Webster Groves to get a stretch of road named after a local celebrity. He's not a founding father, a ballplayer, or politician, but Raynard Nebbitt is definitely someone people recognize.
In Cover Story, Karen Foss tells us more about this remarkable man and his unusual passion. Even if you're not familiar with him by name, many drivers can tell you, Raynard Nebbitt is hard to miss.
"I've seen Raynard all the way down in the city before actually," says Michael Bernal. "So he gets around a little bit."
This quiet 45-year-old man with a child-like grin spends hours a day pedaling from one place to the next. But his presence on the South Rock Hill Road overpass on I-44 is the reason many people know him best.
"I see him go by, he's always friendly, he'll smile and wave," says Webster resident Marlene McCarthy.
"I just know him because he's out here at the bridge every day," offers commuter Kellie Green.
No one can explain Raynard's fascination with the overpass, but for years on end he's planted himself here, the self-proclaimed keeper of the bridge and of the replica he hand-crafted that sits close by. Raynard's sister Kathy says it's something only God and Raynard understand, "I questioned him and he just says because he likes to and he wants to.”
"The train honkers and the truck honkers see me watching my bridge," says Raynard.
He's become such a fixture on the trestle that whether they're driving by or passing on the highway below, drivers can't seem to help themselves. But it's those echoing sounds of support that appear to pose a problem. Kristy Osburn, a nurse who works odd shifts, recently bought a house next to Raynard's beloved bridge.
"It's not so much that we have a problem with Raynard, it's the fact, it's the instigation of the noise on the bridge when he makes the gesture to truckers," says Osburn.
When the noise rattled Osburn's last nerve, she sent a letter home with Raynard, requesting he refrain from encouraging motorists to honk.
"People can wave, wave at Raynard, show your support, but do you have to make all the noise?" says Osburn.
"I sympathize with the lady as far as the noise is concerned, and we certainly have tried to work with Raynard and with the noise, but he's been going up there for 13 years," says Nebbitt.
Kathy Nebbitt's response in the Webster-Kirkwood Times was the first of many letters to the editor concerning Raynard's daily ritual. Letters from residents who admire Raynard's joy of simple pleasures and others who simply enjoy peace and quiet.
After Nebbitt's letter mentioned Raynard hoped the bridge would be named after him, Webster resident Theresa Wojak could only think of one thing, "Why not? It's a bridge nobody else has claimed, it's not the most beautiful bridge, but he has this fascination with it, down to the power lines.”
A petition drive followed, and within days close to 400 residents signed up in support of naming the overpass after Raynard.
"I still get chills just thinking about it, people came in a steady stream, day and night signing the petition," says Wojak.
Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch isn't surprised by the response, "I think it will make a lot of people very, very happy, including Raynard.”
But it's hard to imagine that anything could make Raynard happier than to be on the bridge, listening to the hum of an oncoming train, or the whistle that blares, despite a sign that clearly forbids it.
"I don't think he has any kind of fascination with the noise, but just by the connection when he gets them to blow," says Nebbitt.
For it’s these sounds that spark his imagination, and allow Raynard's model of the bridge to come alive for a few moments each day, taking Raynard to a place that only he and God get to visit.
"And I think to him, it means something to him," says Nebbitt.
Webster Groves does have an ordinance that bans excessive honking. So far, police have not received any complaints regarding excessive honking in the area. Webster's Mayor say efforts to name an area near the bridge after Raynard are moving forward. We'll keep you posted.