A Nacogdoches man died Tuesday afternoon following an accident in which he drove off US 59 South in Nacogdoches County and struck a candle shop.
Bill Johnson, 83, died at 2:20 p.m. at a Nacogdoches hospital.
According to the DPS report, Johnson was driving a 2003 Toyota Tacoma northbound, five miles south of Nacogdoches at 10:55 a.m. when he left the road, overturned and struck the side of a building.
He was wearing a seatbelt.
Mary Douglas, owner of Fine Candles, said Johnson ran a watermelon stand close to the business.
Evidence at the scene actually shows Johnson was driving northbound. An eyewitness said he ran off the road just south of the business, careened north down and incline, across a parking lot and hit the building while airborne.
Johnson had a bumper crop of watermelons this summer. It would be his last. For years he and his younger brother Don have grown and sold melons and peas from the roadside stand on US 59.
For weeks, his wife Edith has been in a Lufkin hospital. Johnson drove to visit her twice a day. He was almost home Tuesday when something went wrong with his own health.
"I went out the side door because you couldn't get through it," Ken Douglas said.
Ken Douglas and a motorist went to the driver's aid.
"The truck was up on its side," Douglas said. "The other gentleman took his knife out and he was trying to cut the windshield out."
Of all the cars passing by, the accident involved a neighbor.
"And it's really traumatic in that it was someone you knew," Mary Douglas said.
A lot of people knew Johnson. His rounds included morning coffee at Kinfolks and the auction barn on sale day.
"Mr. Johnson had a lot of friends," Douglas said. "He was delight to visit with."
The 84-year-old worked all his life. This summer, Johnson loaded up a trailer and even filled his truck backseat with melons to sale from Nacogdoches to Houston.
"He'll be missed," Douglas said.
Mostly by Edith. Family members say right before she got the news of her husband's death, she had a dream he had been killed.
Laird's funeral home is conducting visitation for Johnson Thursday evening, followed by a service Friday morning. The family is hopeful his wife will be well enough to attend.
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