Teacher, Volunteer Is Named Man of Year

After suffering a stroke, plunging into a weeklong coma and emerging to find himself in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Willis Naysmith did what the doctors said would be impossible: He went back to work.

For his dedication to teaching and his efforts as a health-care volunteer, Naysmith, 64, has been named Man of the Year by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce.

Naysmith suffered his stroke in 1978. After 29 years as a sixth-grade teacher at the Camarillo Heights Elementary School, he retired in 1993.

Since then, he has developed elementary-school reading programs, after-school tutoring programs and a support group for stroke patients.

The group has attracted people from as far as Santa Barbara and Woodland Hills.

"It's mostly encouragement, but he's great support in himself," said John Keckler, who began attending the groups after his stroke in 1991.

Naysmith said his volunteer work has taught him one central lesson:

"It took me 59 years to find out I can't sit out on the sidelines."

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