Lifestyle & Human Interest

Beloved Referee Moved to Tears When Community Surprises Him with New Car


No obstacle was going to stop a 78-year-old Navy veteran from showing up to work — not even the lack of transportation.

Lemuel Buster is passionate about refereeing volleyball games, partly because he is a former volleyball player but mostly because he loves serving the people in his Paulding County, Georgia, community. Buster even arrives at games hours early to lend a helping hand to the coaches.

When Buster’s car died, he had no feasible way to get to work. Rather than call off, Buster resorted to spending hundreds of dollars on a rental car so he could continue refereeing.

What was the reasoning behind his determination? Buster takes his commitment to his community seriously.

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“I made a commitment and a commitment means a lot to me,” Buster told WXIA-TV.

Recognizing Buster’s unwavering dedication to Paulding County, the volleyball players and their parents decided to take action. Secretly, they began raising money to fund a surprise for their beloved referee.

When the time came to present Buster with their gift, the scene waiting for him outside the rec center moved him to tears. Members of the community lined the parking lot, applauding.

“I turn around, and I see moms, dads with their cameras taking pictures. I see girls that had played earlier—why are they here?” Buster remembered wondering.

As he approached the gift waiting for him in the parking lot, he finally understood. The players and their parents had raised enough money to buy Buster a new car.

A giant red bow was on top of the convertible Chrysler Sebring.

In addition, the group presented the referee with $2,000 to cover the expense of gas and tags.

“I will not ever forget this day as long as I live,” Buster said. “I’m in tears.”

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To Buster, the Paulding County community is more than a collection of neighbors. He considers the volleyball players and their parents his family.

“These are my great-grandchildren. The parents are my children,” Buster said. “We’re family.”

Buster announced to the crowd that he intended to drive the car straight to church. He had the car blessed by a priest that Sunday.

“So what have I learned from here? There are good people all over the place,” Buster said. “All you need to do is smile.”

It seems that Buster’s personal motto is a valuable one to live by. Thanks to the compassion of the Paulding Community, he will be able to continue sharing his heart for service with his beloved family of volleyball players.

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Noel Marquis is a journalist and animal-lover hailing from the Midwest. After an internship with Disney following her college graduation, she pursued a career writing content that makes readers smile. Coffee, books and superhero movies are some of her favorite things.