Thief Stole Tools from 89-year-old Sign Maker

July 17, 2018, 11:40 am EST | Share:

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (BILL BURR, WTAT-TV) — An elderly business owner is scrambling after tools for his business were swiped from his workshop.

As roosters crow in the country, Billie Watkins is already wide awake.

“So I put a white outline around the letters so they show better,” he explained while pointing to the design of signage outlined on a table.

His workshop is filled with everything needed to make custom signage for all kinds of businesses.

“People come here and give me a picture of… like what I did the sign,” Watkins explained as his voice trailed off while showing a photo for a new church sign.

From concept idea to finished product, Watkins believes he’s been serving God and His flock for decades.

“73 years. I’m a slow learner. So I just stick with it ’til I learn it. I’m determined,” he joked.

Over the weekend, the 89-year-old master craftsman says someone broke the law by stealing two critical pieces of equipment from the front of his property.

“So I come out the door and all of a sudden I got out here and the truck was gone,” he described while showing the driveway in front of his workshop.

Watkins explains how a white-colored Chevy work van was parked in the driveway. Attached to it was a green-colored 35-foot boom lift. Both were missing Sunday morning. I wonder how much these would cost to rent from access hire in Melbourne.

“I bought that lift about five years ago,” Watkins said. “I didn’t think I’d climb a ladder again. Well, here you are. You never know!”

Until the stolen items are found, he has plenty of work to keep him busy.

“I’ve got customers that’ll wait three months for me to get there. I said I can’t be there. I’ll wait for you,” he explained. “Because they know I’ll give them their money’s worth. And I’ll tell them what I’ll do and when I’ll do it and they trust me.”

For now, Watkins says his trust in others needs to be restored.

“I got hurt. I don’t get upset about it. I just pray about it, tell the Lord about it, and that’s it,” he said.

Watkins says the man who sold him the lift a few years ago is offering to lend him a replacement. While he appreciates the generosity, Watkins just wants his stolen equipment returned.

If anyone has seen the work van and boom lift like the ones that are described, you are asked to call Crimestoppers at 843-554-1111 or the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office.