‘Candy Man’ gives out goodies, goodwill to all

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Ed "Candy Man" Payne of Huntingburg, center, passes out candy for the final time in Huntingburg on Saturday. Payne has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and has decided to forego any treatment, instead opting for hospice comfort care. Four generations of Payne's family came together to help him pass out over 600 bags of candy to community members. "I think it speaks to how small, simple acts of kindness makes a difference," said Leslie Petry of Huntingburg, Payne's granddaughter. "The legacy of love he's spread ... I just couldn't be prouder."


HUNTINGBURG — Hundreds of people visited the corner of Fourth and Van Buren streets on Saturday to see Ed, the Candy Man.

He smiled as people shared how he gave them candy, brightened their day, and touched their lives overall.

Ed the Candy Man, also known as Ed Payne, is well known in the community. He’s been a permanent sight for the last 12 years, walking along Fourth Street and around town and going into the different buildings to give out candy.

“I like seeing the smiles on their faces,” Ed said. “That makes me happy.”

Saturday’s giveaway will pretty much be Ed’s last big hurrah. He has stage 4 lung cancer and is now in hospice at his Stork Place apartment.

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“We know that lots of people would want to see him,” said Julie Eckert, his daughter. “So we arranged this for Saturday.”

The Candy Man’s kids put together more than 600 bags of candy, each with a photo of him inside and note that said “Until we meet again, Love Candy Man.”

Ed has dementia now, so he looks to his children to recall some events in his life. But he has no difficulty remembering to keep candy on himself to give to anyone he sees. And he remembers his jokes.

Leslie Petry of Huntingburg takes a photo of her grandfather, Ed "Candy Man" Payne of Huntingburg, posing with family members before he passes out candy for the final time in Huntingburg on Saturday. Payne has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and has decided to forego any treatment, instead opting for Hospice comfort care.

“I’m 39,” the 84-year-old said. “But I’m not going to tell you how many times I’ve been 39.”

Ed was born in Kentucky and raised in Dale. He married Shirley (Zink) in 1957, right before he went into the Army. He served for three years.

“I got to sleep outside when it was 50 below zero,” he said, “not in a tent, but a sleeping bag. It was a little chilly.” That was in Alaska, before Alaska was a state.

After the Army, he worked as an electrician, which was his career. The Paynes had seven children: Pam Payne, Debbie Smith, Sharlene Schitter, Julie Eckert, Ed Payne Jr., Jon Payne and Kevin Payne. That family has extended to include 23 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

“I wasn’t always a good son to my father,” Jon admitted. “But he was always a good father to me.”

“Yeah, he loved us unconditionally,” Ed Jr. said. “And he taught me everything I know.”

Ed became the Candy Man about 12 years ago. He started handing out candy to the children at the church he attended then, Dale Bible Church.

“The children would run up to him and say, ‘It’s the Candy Man!’” Sharlene said.

He continued this mission even when he and Shirley eventually moved to Stork Place. She died in 2014.

Up until March of this year, it was not uncommon to see the Candy Man at different businesses and stores along Fourth Street and around Huntingburg. He’d walk around and hand out candy to whoever wanted it. He’d go as far as to Sheldon’s Express Pharmacy on the city’s north side. His children would take him to St. Vincent de Paul and Goodwill in Jasper to hand out his goodies.

Ed "Candy Man" Payne of Huntingburg passes out candy for the final time in Huntingburg on Saturday.

He happily would spend between $60 and $100 each week on candy. He got donations of bags of candy from time to time. And if he ran out, his kids got him more of the sugary goodies.

The Candy Man has a running joke that Sharlene shared. “He said that he gives people Smarties so that they’ll be smart,” she said, “and then a Dum Dum to dumb them down.”

There’s been people who have had to say no to his candy for medical reasons. And when he first started, people weren’t used to him, so they were wary about accepting the gift. But as he kept doing it, people got to know him.

After that, “Not very many said no,” he said.

Ed said a favorite candy among people is the Bit-O-Honey. “It’s my favorite too,” he said.

But he doesn’t eat the candy himself. “I’m afraid that if I start, I’ll eat it all and wouldn’t have any to give away,” he said, chuckling.

The Candy Man had to stop doing his route when the COVID-19 virus led to stay-at-home recommendations from officials. Julie would come over and go on walks with her dad. As time went on, she noticed that he would get more and more out of breath.

“We’d walk shorter distances, and he’d get tired,” she said. “So I told Sharlene that dad needs to see the doctor.”

After getting him checked, they found out two weeks ago that he has cancer. “So if it wouldn’t have been for this COVID, we wouldn’t have found out about this now,” Julie said.

The Candy Man chose not to go through treatments. Instead he is doing hospice at home and still providing candy. And he talks about his beloved wife, to whom he is still faithful.

“I’m looking forward to being with her again,” he said. “I sure do miss her.”

The Candy Man has a bowl that sits on the bench in front of his apartment full of candy for people to pick up. Sometimes, if he feels up to it, he sits outside and talks to people who come by — from a safe distance.

“Wherever we go, he has to have a bag of candy with him,” Jon said.

“There’s someone who wants candy,” Candy Man responded.

The Candy Man takes this mission very seriously, even as he is going through his own life challenges. Giving people candy brings him joy each day.

“I just like to do it,” he said. “And it’s my job.”

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