STOTESBURY, W.Va. -- In an 82-year-old photograph, a young Robert C. Byrd squints slightly and wears a dapper suit and bow tie.
His dark hair is combed neatly to the right as he stands out among dozens of children in front of the Stotesbury Community Church.
"It's odd like that to see a kid wearing a suit and tie," said Tom Cox, of Stotesbury, who said the 1928 image, hanging inside the church, appeared to be a precursor of things to come.
In this quiet hollow south of Sophia along a road named for Byrd, residents reflected Monday on the life and modest upbringing of America's longest-serving member of Congress.
"He was just a common guy, just like the rest of us," said Haley Bonds, Cox's 85-year-old mother.
Bonds and other residents of Stotesbury and Sophia remembered Byrd, who died Monday at the age of 92, as more than a former Senate leader. They remembered a young man who worked hard, butchered meat and loved to play the fiddle.
Up the road from Bonds' home rests a stone marker that identifies the spot where Byrd graduated as valedictorian of Mark Twain High School in 1934. The marker, a white West Virginia history sign and a stairway leading down to the old school are all that remain.
Judi Cadle remembers a 1988 campaign stop when Byrd showed up in Stotesbury and, while filming a commercial, ran into her 8-year-old son on the railroad tracks. "He shook my son's hand on the commercial," she said.
That same year, Byrd and his wife, Erma, ate lunch at Bonds' home near the church. "He looked at Mark Twain yearbooks and just had a nice visit," she said.
Bonds and others recalled Byrd's young life as a butcher.
"He said he walked from here to Helen every day ... and he wore holes in his shoes," she said. The trip is about 5 miles each way, she said.
In about 1946, a teenage William Coughlin used to order meat from Byrd at the butcher shop where Byrd worked in Sophia.
The future congressional leader cut the spiced ham that Coughlin's father tossed in his bucket on the way to the coal mines.
Coughlin, 79, said he always voted for Byrd. "I liked him," he said. "He always done good for us."
Connie Samples, of Bolt, who ate lunch with her sister in Sophia on Monday afternoon, told her husband in the morning that Byrd's successor has "some big shoes to fill."