Waves of Kindness

McGehee, Arkansas, woman waves at a passing train from her home.

McGehee, Arkansas, woman waves at a passing train from her home.

Two Union Pacific employees stationed out of North Little Rock, Arkansas, have gone above and beyond in their community to support a woman who brightens the days of local train crews.

James Cathey, locomotive engineer of more than 23 years, noticed a woman who always seems to make time to greet the UP crews passing by her home. Cathey noticed that even though her small home was nearly 25 yards away from the tracks, she could be heard yelling kind words to the crews as they rolled by her hometown of McGehee, Arkansas.

"Her voice carries – I don't know what it is, but it just carries," he said. "She'll say to us, ‘Thank you for your service!' ‘God bless you!' ‘Y'all take care and be safe out there!'"

James Cathey

James Cathey, Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer

It's become common practice among the North Little Rock team to wave and holler some kind words to their passionate supporter.

"After a while, you get kind of used to seeing her out there," Cathey said.

"She's out there; it doesn't matter what time. At 6 a.m., 7 a.m., almost until dark. She'll hear the train come by and come out to the door and wave. If it's late at night, after 10, she'll pull her curtains back and turn the light on to wave through the window. She always makes sure to wave, though."

Noticing that she was always on her own and the state of her home, Cathey decided he should pay their favorite lady a visit.

"I'm not wealthy, but I do have more than what I need," he said. "I'm blessed. "So, when the mood hits me and something talks to my soul, I act on it. When I saw her sitting out there, I thought about Valentine's Day; I'm going to make her my Valentine."

Cathey called Derwin Davis, his friend and fellow member of UP's Black Employee Network (BEN), and asked him to take a trip down to McGehee with him. Davis gladly agreed and the two of them, plus Davis' wife, drove the one and a half hours to her home.

Derwin Davis

Derwin Davis, Union Pacific Senior Recruiter

"We had no idea what we were about to encounter," said Davis, senior recruiter, Workforce Resources. "We discovered she had very minimal items in her home."

The three of them gave her candy, UP apparel, food and other essentials. They spoke with her for several hours, learning about her life.

"She was just so humbled and grateful for the kind gesture from James, myself and my wife," Davis said. "She was basically in tears; she told us she has no one and that the highlight of her day is speaking to the train crews."

The woman, retired and in her 70s, looks forward to seeing the men and women on the local train crews that come by multiple times a day. She even began to recognize a few employees after they started yelling kind words for her.

"It really resonated with me how James was so attentive to a random stranger from the community," Davis said, praising his co-worker.

"Now we're talking to Habitat for Humanity about fixing up her house so she can still wave at the trains," Cathey said. "We talked about assisted living, but she said she wants to see the trains."

"It reminded me of how fortunate I am and how important it is for us, as employees, to give back to our communities," Davis said, encouraging more UP employees to look to their teams and communities for those who brighten their days. "You just never know what someone is going through."

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