Ever since Arnold Roebkes, known to his friends as Arnie or Mr. Bicycle Guy, placed some roses on the door of a local bar, he quickly became living proof that there is something more than just a small town keeping Maryville feeling like a family.
To Roebkes, the roses he planted on the front door of the Palms is a symbol of beauty and life. This seemingly simple flower was the only object he could think of when deciding how he would honor a passed Bearcat, Morgan McCoy, after she died a few weeks back.
The topic of death for Roebkes is all too familiar, as he lost his mother only about a year ago. Further than this, he was forced to deal with a serious family tragedy more than 20 years ago.
“My sister was murdered back in ’91; this guy took her out of her house and beat her to death. She had two little girls, and was going to be a nurse up in Iowa,” Roebkes said. “It’s no good, and I was thinking about it when that poor girl got killed at the bar. Who would think someone would do something like that? You wouldn’t think something like that could ever happen.”
These were not any old roses though. These were roses bought with half of the money Roebkes had to his name on one of the most frostbite-inducing days of the Maryville year. Homeless, with nothing but a couple of dollars, his bike, blankets, a single chair and the roof of a one-bedroom apartment to go home to. Even his teeth are something he had been without since the late 80s.
Despite all of this, he trudged through the snow from Dollar General to the Palms to place these roses because he knows what it is like to have someone taken away too soon.
However, Roebkes’ warm-hearted actions did not go unnoticed on this bone-chilling day. One woman, Kelley Baldwin, saw what he did and felt as though she would be doing a disservice to not tell this story of perseverance and unsung kindness.
Baldwin took to Facebook to share Roebkes’ story of kindness. The post was 550 words and reached the Facebook walls of thousands, garnering more than 2,500 likes and 1,500 shares. At this point, Roebkes was touching the lives of Maryville residents and people in Kansas City as well, all thanks to just one person noticing.
“I think the reaction is indicative of how much we crave positivity,” Baldwin said. “I believe the world is overwhelmingly made of good, kind people. It also highlights how much people want to help. So many generous people stepped up with donations of time, talents, money and goods. I hope this generosity of spirit can grow into greater support of the local organizations who help folks like Arnie on a daily basis.”
Since the story was uploaded, a fundraising page has been started in support of Roebkes in hopes of giving him some sort of support. The page, on youcaring.com, is ongoing and receives new donations everyday with Roebkes’ longtime friends, Emily and Jason Tobin, running the operation.
“Arnie basically gave up everything he had left for those roses,” Jason said. “He spent what he had, used his time to walk all the way there in the freezing cold, just to put those roses up high where everyone could see them.”
Most Maryville residents have seen Roebkes meandering around town, whether it be at Dollar General, Walmart or McDonalds – he makes sure to show up to the golden arches at least twice a day. Now they know who he is and what he has done, and they are not hesitating to help out in any way they can.
Soon Roebkes had a coffee table along with his chair and blankets. Then came bathing supplies, shoes and even a brand new bike. Roebkes says his favorite donation was his newly donated full size bed. Jason says he is so used to catching Roebkes at McDonalds in the morning, but after Roebkes’ first night with his new bed he made sure to take a nice, long well-deserved day to sleep in.
“A lot of people won’t want to tell their friends they need help,” Emily said. “They don’t want to say, ‘Hey, can you help me get a bed?’ Arnie never asks for handouts, he’d rather work for something or help you.”
Haircuts, eye exams, you name it. He is even on his way to scheduling an appointment to get a full set of denchers to replace the teeth he lost so long ago.
Before he knew it, Roebkes had more than just an apartment full of everything he needs; he had family of community members doing what they could to repay the kindness he brought to their days.
Even after the explosion of support he’s gotten the only thing Roebkes could think or ask about was McCoy’s family. He wants to show his support and be there in any way he can. And just because his actions have been noticed once, doesn’t mean he’ll stop caring.
“I think about my mother and I think about my sister and everything, and I just feel sorry,” Roebkes said. “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.”
Support comes in all shapes and sizes, and it only takes one person to notice a random act of kindness to send out positivity in droves. Wave after wave of support continues to come in for Roebkes, and as a result, McCoy is being remembered every single day as well.
Baldwin knows Maryville is a family, and the response to Roebkes’ story is only further proof of this. What she and so many others can’t get over though, is how one man managed to make such a difference.
“Kindness takes all forms, and I suppose many of us sometimes forget that,” Baldwin said. “It’s the small, everyday kindnesses that remind us of what we can be. Sometimes, we may feel we do not have the power to make a difference or a positive impact on the world around us. Arnie’s sweet gesture reminds us that you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference.”