Mon 12 Nov 2007
Heck of a month for Chapel Hill legends.
I met Marty many years ago, used to run into him down at 501 Diner and on Franklin Street. He was an industrious guy, grinning away as he worked. Willing to take a minute and meet new folks – talk to them openly about his unusual situation.
Just as always, Marty Ravellette took his seat Monday morning at the Sutton’s Drug Store counter and swung his bare foot up to grip a waiting coffee cup.
Neither the Chapel Hill legend nor the many people who loved and admired him knew it would be for the last time.
Ravellette, who was born without arms but learned to use his feet to do everything from eating breakfast to cutting down trees, was killed Monday morning in a car accident. He was 67.
Another friendly Franklin Street presence I’ll miss.
Long time residents probably remember Marty pulling a woman clear of her car wreck on 15-501 back in 1998. The N&O reported on the Discovery Channel documentary covering his life back in 2004.
Marty told them the story (which I’ve heard him retell) of meeting Chuck Stone and being invited to talk to UNC students.
Q. How did you start speaking to students at UNC-Chapel Hill?
My wife is African-American and she works at Shoney’s. One day we were there eating and Professor Chuck Stone came up and said, “Here is this beautiful African-American woman and she’s not only with a white man but a white man with no arms. What’s going on here?” He just couldn’t figure it out. He sat down and we talked. After three or four months he invited me to his journalism class to speak to his students. That was six years ago.
Q. What do you tell the students in your talk with them?
I talk about nobility and how mankind is noble. It just doesn’t know it yet. No man has the right to look down on another human being because of the color of his skin. I also tell them that they can do the same things I’ve done. You don’t have to be handicapped to have an impact.
Right on Marty.