The act of kindness was one that made her question if it was too good to be true.
“They didn’t let us give them a dime,” said Renee Landman after a son-and-father team rebuilt a retaining wall in her Penn Hills home’s driveway.
The Landman’s three-foot retaining wall made of concrete blocks collapsed one day about two weeks before Christmas just moments after Landman and her husband, William, had pulled their car into the garage.
“The car was seconds away from being in the way. We were talking in the living room when heard the ‘kaboom,’” she said, adding the repair was estimated by a private contractor to be anywhere from an $1,800 to $2,000 fix.
The cost for the couple was steep, the labor was too strenuous for William Landman – a military veteran who struggles with heart problems – and the couple’s son was unavailable to help repair the wall.
Instead, their son, Dillon Ryan Landman, took to the internet. He set up a GoFundMe account asking for help – whether it be monetary or physical labor.
“Even at 67 years-old, he’s still very capable of doing physical labor but he’s got a bad heart so I’d much rather see the burden of doing it all by himself be less stressful for him,” wrote Dillon Ryan Landman, including details about his parent’s health condition. “If you can offer assistance of any kind it would be greatly appreciated.”
William Landman served in the U.S. Air Force from 1972-76 and then with the Army National Guard Reserves from 1990-92. Three years after retiring from the military, the commercial laborer’s heart started to give him troubles.
Doctors said the symptoms were a warning of a potential stroke and other serious conditions that can cause blood clots. One of his arteries was 90-percent clogged and he was put on blood thinners.
The problems worsened in 2006, when doctors tried cardioversions to restore a normal heart rhythm. The three attempts did not work. In 2008, William Landman suffered from a life-threatening blood clot in one of his legs, where doctors surgically placed a stent to encourage normal blood flow.
The problems led him to retire early in 2010, when he was 59, without health insurance.
“That’s when we enrolled in the (VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.) And it was a blessing financially,” said Renee Landman.
The story struck a chord in Bill O’Leary, who happens to have his own story. The 58-year-old from Plum who owns his own handyman business decided to rebuild the Landmans’ wall free of charge. The day after Christmas, he and his son, Trent, surprised William Landman when they showed up ready to work.
“I’ve always prayed to God that I’d be successful enough to help my son and help others,” O’Leary said. “I’ve been very blessed, and, the way I was raised, I want to return blessings. And I very much appreciate veterans.”
O’Leary, who grew up with family members who served in the military, had a serious construction accident in 1986 when he was in his 20s. After falling from a scaffold when a brick structure collapsed, O’Leary was buried in six feet of brick, he said.
“People talk about the white light and the near death experiences – I was there. The whole nine yards,” O’Leary said.
The fall broke several of O’Leary’s bones, knocked out many of his teeth and the impact caused him to lose a significant amount of blood.
“I think I knew enough to know what was going on and I thought, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me die.’ As soon as I thought that, I came back and a nurse said to me, ‘I don’t know how you’re still alive. There’s no blood in you,’” he said.
The accident also badly injured two others that day, according to a local newspaper in Massachusetts, where the incident occurred.
O’Leary, who was raised Catholic in the Pittsburgh area, moved to Massachusetts for work. He moved back home after the accident and has lived in the area as a truck driver and strong believer in God since.
“It was just put on my heart to help these people. So that’s what I did. And it was perfect timing, to do something for Christmas,” he said.
With help from his son and William Landman, the retaining wall was fixed within an eight-hour window.
When they refused payment, Renee Landman said she insisted on giving the father-and-son pair a gift card to a restaurant for their generosity. She has also lauded O’Leary’s skill on social media by urging others to hire him, the man behind WillO Remodeling and Handyman Services, for any projects.
“It’s nice to know there’s still good people in this world,” Renee Landman said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.