The year in review

Notable passings: They left our community a better place

Many residents who didn’t make headlines — but made a mark on their communities — passed away this year. Here, a look at some of them.

December 31, 2012 

Wesley Brax

People remember Wesley Brax for that amazing baritone voice.

His passion was singing and he graced many a venue with his talent, singing solos locally in Handel’s “Messiah” at St. Peter’s Catholic Church and Washington Street United Methodist Church. But his talent could not be contained to his hometown or state.

Brax, 23, who died in a car accident April 14, was poised for a brilliant musical career. After attending Lexington and A.C. Flora High schools, he graduated from the S.C. Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities. He earned an undergraduate degree from Florida State University and was pursuing a master’s of music in voice from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music at the time of his death.

One of his favorite sayings was “Ars longa, vita brevis,” which translated from the Latin means “Art is long, life is short,” said his mother, Mary Beth Sims Branham. “Not that he ever expected to pass on so soon in life, but that his love and passion for music he knew was ever enduring and essential to life itself,” she said in an email.

He made the most of every opportunity. Wesley performed as the bass soloist for CCM’s performance of Bach’s “Matthaus-Passion” and premiered a solo work at the Midwest Composers Symposium. Among his many honors, he was a vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass., and was grand prize winner of the student category in the National Orpheus Vocal Competition. A devout Catholic, he performed at the Vatican for the Pope with the Florida State University Singers.

“We are overwhelmed by the impact my son made not only in our local community but in the lives of people all around the world,” Branham said.

Carolyn Click


Charles Clark

Charlie Clark was in third grade when he decided he wanted to be a police officer.

A policeman always stopped traffic to let the schoolchildren cross the street, and Clark said having that kind of authority appealed to him.

Turns out he would serve on the Columbia police force for 42 years, a Southern gentleman who never seemed to get rattled, no matter the crisis.

Clark began on foot patrol in 1960 and rose through the ranks to serve as interim police chief for a year before retiring in 2002.

Clark’s investigative skills extended to an interest in history and genealogy.

He spent 25 years or more collecting photographs and compiling an historical roster of the Columbia Police Department. He was particularly interested in officers’ nicknames and the stories behind them.

Tall and slender, and sporting a mustache, Clark was meticulous about his appearance.

He liked to cook, and was known for his poundcakes at Christmas.

He died on Oct. 28 at age 74, leaving his wife of 31 years, Dianne Clark of Columbia.

Dawn Hinshaw


Deborah Lou Bower

Deborah Lou Bower’s lifelong love for senior adults began as a child.

The 63-year-old, who died Oct. 13, often would share the story of her grandfather giving her Bazooka bubblegum as she walked him home for lunch and how she never saw a Bazooka bubblegum without thinking of him.

When her husband was transferred to Columbia in the mid-1990s, Bower decided that if she wanted to continue her work with seniors, she had to work for Senior Resources. She began with the agency’s Neighbor Care program before moving to the Meals On Wheels program and was named executive director in 1999. Her goal for the agency to have a home of its own was realized in 2002, when the administrative offices moved into its permanent location.

Bower graduated from the University of Illinois in 1971. She was a member of McGregor Presbyterian Church.

Bertram Rantin


Gilbert Guthrie Darr

Even as a young boy growing up in Claremont, Calif., Gilbert Guthrie Darr had a love of music. He played the clarinet and saxophone and was a member of the Claremont High School Orchestra.

Darr met his wife, Winona Overin, at Pomona College in Claremont, where they were students. The couple wed in 1949 and immediately after their honeymoon, left for their new life in South Carolina.

Darr would spend the next 44 years as Columbia College’s professor of music. While at the women’s college, he directed choral choirs and taught classes in music history, appreciation and theory. As a teacher, he inspired thousands of young women through his love of music, passion for getting things absolutely right, and dedication to the arts.

Darr was also active in the community serving as director of Shandon United Methodist Church’s chancel choir and conductor for the Columbia Choral Society. He led the Capital Life Chorale and the Carolina Chorale as well as serving as principal oboist in the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra. He also was a founding member of the South Carolina Woodwind Quintet.

He died July 14, 2012, with his wife by his side and no doubt, music in his heart.

Mindy Lucas


Carol Hastings DeLuca

The Barking Lot dog park at Saluda Shoals Park is a home-away-from-home for plenty of people and dogs. In many ways, Carol Hastings DeLuca was the Barking Lots’s matriarch.

DeLuca, who died Sept. 14 at age 72, frequented a dog park in New Jersey before retiring in Lexington to be near family members. She arrived in the area eight years ago, about the time the Barking Lot opened at Saluda Shoals, and she lobbied for improvements when the park was moved to a different section of the park.

She and her best friends — a Cairn terrier named Willis and a Jack Russell terrier named Annie — showed up every day, usually in the 2-5 p.m. range. DeLuca interacted with the other dog-owners; Willis and Annie with the other dogs. And sometimes it was vice-versa.

After her death, friends donated funds in her honor to pay for a new bench in the Barking Lot.

Joey Holleman


Joanne Tripp Emerson

Joanne Tripp Emerson is remembered as an icon in Columbia’s nonprofit world.

She served as executive director of Interfaith Community Services from 1986 until her retirement in 2006. She founded the S.C. Association of Non-Profit Organizations and the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Emerson was well-known for her views concerning social justice and politics and balanced that with a passion for cooking and movies.

The Joanne Tripp Emerson Nonprofit Leader Award fund for graduate students has been established in her name at the University of Georgia Institute for Nonprofit Organizations.

The 74-year-old Elgin resident died Oct. 12.

Bertram Rantin


Philip Gibbs Grose

Philip Gibbs Grose always thought of himself as a journalist first, even as he also came to serve as a top aide to two South Carolina governors and leader of several state agencies.

Grose, who died Feb. 3 at age 73 after a three-year battle with leukemia, will be remembered for chronicling the seismic shifts in South Carolina politics and society through well-regarded biographies of the two governors he knew best: Robert McNair and John West.

Grose had a front row seat to that history, as a journalist for The Charlotte Observer and The State newspaper during the turbulent civil rights era. At the conclusion of the McNair biography, Grose said he hoped he captured, for black and white South Carolinians, the evolution of an agrarian, segregated state into a more progressive, open era.

He earned plaudits for both works, “South Carolina at the Brink: Robert McNair and the Politics of Civil Rights” and “Looking for Utopia: The Life and Times of John C. West,” and went on to exert influence in developing state leaders through the Executive Institute he founded.

Carolyn Click


Jerome Hanley

Jerome Hanley was a warrior for children.

During a 33-year career at the S.C. Department of Mental Health, he initiated programs bringing services to kids at their schools and in their homes.

He was convinced that preserving families was essential to the well-being of children.

The first licensed, African-American child psychologist in the state, Hanley lectured and served as a mentor to college students coming up in his field.

After visiting Africa as a tourist, he was inspired by the respect for education he saw in children there. He spent the last decade of his life working with tribal chiefs and headmasters to provide the supplies and school fees required for young people to continue their studies.

His defining characteristic became his colorful African-print clothing.

Hanley died in February, a year after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was 61 and is survived by his wife, Brenda Hunter Hanley, of Columbia; and adult daughter, Courtney Burnett, of Greenville.

Dawn Hinshaw


Edward William Hartung Jr.

Ed Hartung built wheelchair ramps for people who could not afford them as part of his mission work with Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church.

His Mt. Horeb team had built dozens of ramps through EmmanuWheel, a nonprofit where he served on the board of directors.

He was on his way home from building a ramp May 9 when he was killed in a car wreck on U.S. 378 in Lexington County. He was 62.

Hartung had retired March 1 after working for Whirlpool and Navistar International.

Hartung built wheelchair ramps while working in Tulsa, Okla., and he volunteered with EmmanuWheel after moving to Columbia.

“He has helped an enormous amount of people,” said Jeff Kerby, EmmanuWheel’s director. “There is no replacing him.”

Noelle Phillips


George W. Johnson Jr.

Most of George W. Johnson Jr.’s friends called him “Coach.”

Johnson, who died July 3 at age 84, taught physical education and coached cross-country and track teams at Brookland-Cayce High School (1959-89) and Ben Lippen School (1989-2012) for more than 50 years.

He coached 20 official state championship teams, and several others that won state competitions before the S.C. High School League recognized cross-country champs.

It all started when his wife Helen helped line up a job interview at Brookland-Cayce because she wanted him home more. At the time, he was a traveling appliance parts salesman.

Late in his coaching career, Johnson said that what he really enjoyed was “helping kids find something they are good at and then showing them how to make themselves better.”

Joey Holleman


Col. Richard “Dick” Jones

To a generation of Forest Lake Elementary students, he was known simply as “Grampa Jones.”

Col. Richard “Dick” Jones was there on opening day to greet students and students, assuring the most timid kindergartener they were in for lots of great times. For 20 years, he was a mentor to students, winding his way through first grade classes to assist students in gaining reading fluency. He used old-fashioned storytelling as well as technology to enhance the lesson, and kept on going through the grades as his assistance was needed. He was named a S.C. Department of Education State Volunteer of the Year in 2003.

An Army veteran of World War II with service in both the European and Pacific theatres, Jones shared war stories with fifth-graders studying World War II, assembling war veterans from each branch of the service to speak to the students.

Jones, who died Oct. 14, “was the definition of ‘The Greatest Generation,’” Forest Lake principal Kappy Steck said. “We are all better people because he was in our lives. He is and will always be missed.”

Jones, a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, was active in his church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and in a number of civic groups through the Midlands.

Carolyn Click


Nathan Marvin Kaufman

Lots of people knew Nathan Kaufman and enjoyed stopping by his downtown Columbia restaurant, at Hampton and Gregg streets.

For 22 years, Kaufman ran the unassuming eatery, known for its home-style cooking, with wife Debbie. The two had taken it over from its previous owner and had set about building a life that centered on family, food and loyal customers. Those who stopped by would often find the couple hard at work, with Nathan in the kitchen and Debbie out front.

A wide range of people — from legislators to lawyers, construction workers and business owners — found their way to Nathan’s. Before Hootie and the Blowfish went on to become Grammy-award winning musicians, band members could be found eating breakfast at Nathan’s. An ardent Van Morrison and Rolling Stones fan, Kaufman loved to talk about music, making him popular not only with the Blowfish, but with lots of University of South Carolina students. Kaufman also loved chatting with customers about their children, music or sports, especially his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kaufman, 56, died on July 3. Debbie still runs Nathan’s and says she could not do it without their many loyal customers.

Mindy Lucas


Hiram “Red” Manuel

Hiram “Red” Manuel was a 16-year-old sophomore at Brookland-Cayce High School when he joined the Marines on July 4, 1942.

Like many of his generation, he grew up fast, serving in the second Marine landing party at Nagasaki, Japan, after the dropping of the atom bomb in 1945.

When he returned to school after the war, Manuel was elected president of the Brookland-Cayce class of 1947. His class wanted to honor the many B-C students who had entered the military during the war.

Manuel wrote the War Department, seeking some sort of memorabilia. To his surprise, they sent a cannon, which still sits proudly in front of the school.

Manuel, 87, died Feb. 29.

Joey Holleman


Grady Mathews

Grady Mathews was a billiards pro’s pro.

His success earned him the nickname of “The Professor.” He called himself a hustler.

The first inductee into the One-Pocket Hall of Fame, Mathews operated a billiards hall in Lexington prior to his death on April 18 at age 69.

Mathews won several major titles in all forms of the game but is best known for his success in one-pocket matches.

Mathews appeared in instructional videos, exhibitions and clinics and provided personal coaching amid writing columns and articles for industry publications.

He was a commentator as well as an adviser for movies, with cameo appearances in some.

His billiards parlor is open under new owners.

Tim Flach


William (Billy) Ira Pound Jr.

William (Billy) Ira Pound Jr., 54, of Leesville disappeared after a car accident in rural Fairfield County early Nov. 30, 2010. Through a series of miscues, authorities didn’t match his missing person’s report with the wrecked car for nearly two months. Multiple search efforts in early 2011 didn’t locate Pound’s body.

Finally, workers cutting timber off a dirt road several miles from where the car wrecked found some remains in November 2012. Another search by the CUE (Community United Effort) Center for Missing Persons found more remains nearby. DNA tests matched them to Pound, finally bringing some closure to his family.

The Pound family asked for donations in his to CUE Center for Missing Persons and S.C. Search and Rescue Dog Association to help other families in such trying situations.

Joey Holleman


Ted Allen Rathbun

He was known as the bone guy.

Rathbun spent 30 years teaching forensic anthropology at the University of South Carolina.

In death, his legacy will continue since he donated his remains to the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, better known as The Body Farm. From there, his bones will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where students will continue to learn about bones and their composition.

His wife, Babett Rathbun, and his son, Joel, said: “Ted was genuinely interested in learning and in sharing what he had learned with others.”

Over the years, Rathbun used his expertise to help identify remains for S.C. coroners, New York’s Sept. 11 victims and missing U.S. soldiers. He learned a technique of putting bones on clay that helped in facial reconstruction for police investigators. His reputation led people from all walks of life to bring bones for him to look at.

“About this time of year, people would go hunting and find some bones,” his wife said. . “On Thanksgiving, we would have a skull or something on our table to move before I could put dinner out.”

Ted Rathbun, 70, died on Nov. 14 from complications of surgery.

Noelle Phillips


M.L. Snelgrove

M.L. Snelgrove operated a small marina that was a landmark on Lake Murray until it closed in 2003.

The facility was a historical hodgepodge of the 57 years it was open before its transformation into high-end homes.

He watched the area evolve from wilderness to an in-town resort.

Snelgrove called himself a pack rat who always found a use for anything, enabling him to repair boats others couldn’t.

He was an encyclopedia of lake lore. He also was a promoter of races and events designed to generate more recreation on the 47,500-acre lake.

Snelgrove, 89, died Jan. 8 after a lifetime on a lakeshore he left only for military service in World War II.

Tim Flach


Ethel M. Henderson Taylor

Ethel M. Henderson Taylor left a legacy of service and distinction as an educator, public speaker and civic leader.

The former Benedict College professor, who died Jan. 21, was the state’s first African-American female radio announcer.

Her voice was first heard on WOIC, where she served in multiple jobs during her more than 40 years at the station before moving to WFMV-93.5, where she hosted Golden Gospel Memories for 14 years. She began teaching at Benedict College in 1985, and was an assistant professor of English until her passing.

Taylor, a graduate of Benedict College’s class of 1946, was named to the S.C. Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2008. She was the first black president of the Midlands chapter of the American Business Women’s Association, which named her Woman of the Year in 1977. She received many honors for her work in radio.

Bertram Rantin


Wallace Wright

Wallace Wright loaned his tools (but expected them returned clean).

He shared tomatoes and peppers from his garden, picked up trash and helped organize events for the Woodfield neighborhood, off Decker Boulevard.

In short, Wallace Wright was a good neighbor.

He died May 12 after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

At 12 or 13, Wright left his home in Mission, Texas, a mile from the Mexican border, and went to work in a canning factory. He was a self-made man drawn to gadgets, someone who took things apart just to see how they worked. He liked physical work and never backed down from a fight.

In the 1950s, he ended up at Fort Jackson for a stint in the Army. Later, he opened a bar called the Burger Lounge, then bought a gas station, settling in to work in office technology for 25 years.

He found it hard to retire.

Known as “Wally” or “W.G.” to friends, Wright was a Freemason, with its emphasis on faith and charity, for more than 40 years. He did so much to keep up the Fort Jackson lodge that they named the dining room for him.

He and his wife, Genie, had four children.

Dawn Hinshaw

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