2018 Man of the Year: Dane Ray Cummings: Garbageman, Hero

Dane Ray Cummings
Dane Ray Cummings

Dane Ray Cummings, a California garbageman recovering from a broken back, was alerted by his supervisor that the fast-moving Camp Fire was advancing towards his route and told to go home.

Cummings decided to finish his route instead.

His decision wasn't related to picking up the trash on the route he'd covered for the previous eight years, but because he wanted to make sure the people he'd gotten to know on that route had a way out. He stopped at nearly 50 houses to see if anyone needed help, and none did. Then, on his last planned stop, he found Margaret Newsum, a 93-year-old who didn't see the fire coming and had no way to evacuate. She was standing on her front porch, hoping somebody would see her, when her garbageman showed up.

When Cummings learned Newsum was alone, he decided to break company protocol and take her to safety with him in the truck. The two ended up in the truck fighting through traffic together for five hours, and Cummings ended up the luckiest guy on the road.

"It was the best conversation I've had in a truck ever," Cummings said afterwards. "I wish I'd known her when she was younger. I would've married her, you know what I mean?"

Newsum gave Cummings her complete life story, which included being in Hawaii in 1941 and witnessing Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor as a teenager.

"I was to be married, and my future husband was in the Marine Corps," Newsum explained. "All I remember is the first bomb that hit one of the ships, and the apartment that he rented for me was right at the bay. And I went out to see what it was, and this Japanese plane came over. He was so low that I could see the pilot.

Newsum was also a backup singer for the famous Rat Pack, who she described as "wonderful, wonderful men."

"The Rat Pack. Wonderful, wonderful men," she said. "The singers did the picking out. So, the next thing I know, I was in an interviewing room, and here sits Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. All three of them were sitting there, and they said, ‘We are so thrilled to have you working for us.'"

For breaking company rules to save a terrific woman, Cummings is a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.