COLUMBIA, SC — To this day, the fruit trees that Rev. Tryon Eichelberger planted and lovingly tended still bear fruit. And in many ways, that is the hope behind the newly established scholarship fund set up in his name.
We thought this might be a way of touching the life of some young person along the way, said Eichelbergers oldest son Clifford Eichelberger.
Thoughts of his father, who died in 2009 after a brutal beating at his north Columbia home, have been on his mind a lot lately.
Had his father lived, the minister, community leader and father of eight children and many more grandchildren and great-grandchildren, would have turned 90 this week. His birthday was Thursday.
The whole family usually gets together ... to try to do something to honor him on his birthday, Clifford Eichelberger said.
This year, the family decided to establish a scholarship in the ministers name. A benefit to honor him and raise money for the fund will be held tonight at Bell Memorial Baptist Church along Farrow Road.
We wanted to put together something that would keep my fathers name alive, Eichelberger said.
Well before the news of his horrific killing spread, the longtime Columbia resident was known throughout the Greenview community for his compassion and generosity.
A retired Fort Jackson civil engineering employee, Eichelberger served as minister of Cedar Creek AME Church for 20 years. After retiring from Cedar Creek, he took on a new ministry called the Trinity House of Help and Mercy, through which he regularly gave food and money to those in need.
The lively minister, known for his green thumb and talent as a singer, would also share vegetables from his backyard garden with friends and neighbors. The apple and pear trees and scuppernong vines he tended still bear, their fruit still shared around the neighborhood.
In May 2009, the 87-year-old was found beaten in his Isaac Street home. He had been struck with a heavy metal object, later found to be a tool similar to a crowbar, and died three months later. His killer remained at large until March 2010 when DNA evidence pointed to Frankie Lee McGee. McGee is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Getting together to remember their father will be bittersweet, family members say.
Margaret Harper, one of Eichelbergers daughters, said the bitter part was the way in which her father died.
But the sweet part is well be able to send some young person to college, she said.
The event will include singing from several generations of the Eichelberger family and other performers, as well as a showing of the Discovery Networks program Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets in which the ministers story is featured.
Funds raised from the event will go to support a scholarship for a Benedict College student, Harper said. The family has numerous connections to the college, where Eichelberger earned his theology degree.
Establishing the fund is way for her fathers legacy to continue, Harper said.
Ive .... heard the statement that people will forget what you say while youre here, she said. But people will never forget what you do.
Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.