Bolton: They lived, worked, volunteered and worshipped among us

Associate EditorApril 3, 2013 

Funderburk

— THE FIRST time I met Robert Gene Funderburk Sr., it was in a setting that aptly characterized much of his life’s work.

It was in 1991, and he was conducting a class in etiquette for young students at the Capitol City Club in Columbia. Mr. Funderburk was general manager of the club, and he had taken time out to provide instruction — along with a delicious meal — to youngsters from a Columbia Urban League leadership program and Richland District 1.

While he made the experience fun and engaging, Mr. Funderburk made it clear that it was more than a casual exercise; it was a serious attempt to give students knowledge to help them prepare for life and the competitive nature of the business world.

“A big company like Xerox or IBM, when they recruit, it’s important that you go out and wine and dine,” he said. “That could be your last interview. It’s important how you carry yourself while you’re wining and dining.”

That’s who he was: a prominent manager in the food industry, an instructor in etiquette, a servant, a mentor, an encourager. Mr. Funderburk, 74, died Feb. 17.

Columbia Urban League President James T. McLawhorn said Mr. Funderburk was a consummate professional who mentored many in the food industry. When it came to etiquette, “He was our Emily Post,” Mr. McLawhorn said.

His wife, Bettye James Funderburk, told me on Friday that her husband was a “sharing and caring and giving person” who spent his life “trying to make people happy and did the best that he could to help these young folks.”

“That’s just how he spent his life,” she said. “He was a servant to God and people.”

Periodically, I would cross paths with Mr. Funderburk at functions in the community. He had a certain air about him that was, well, rather debonair. He always was impeccably dressed, dignified and cheerful. And every time I saw him, he had a word of encouragement for me.

Mr. Funderburk enjoyed a long and impressive career. During a stint in Washington, he managed at The Congressional Club, World Bank, Black Beard and the Diplomat Hotel. He moved to Columbia and continued his management career at the Summit Club, USC’s Faculty House, the Capital City Club, Funderburk at Middleburg, Funderburk and Houston Catering and Rust in the Vista. He was a member of Brookland Baptist Church and became the first manager of the church’s Banquet and Conference Center. He also owned and operated Denmark Diner.

He touched many lives far beyond his immediate family and friends and will be greatly missed.

Many other family members, friends and neighbors we in this community have lost in recent months likewise leave an irreplaceable void as well.

From time to time, I write about some of those whose names are published on the obituary pages of this newspaper. Whether we knew them personally or never met them, they all were our neighbors and in some way — if only through making a small contribution in their own personal sphere — helped build the fabric of our community.

Here are some others of our friends and neighbors who lived, worked, volunteered and worshipped among us who are now gone. But be assured, they’ll never be forgotten:

Willie B. Davis, age 69, died Jan. 2. He served in the Army during the Korean War. He retired as an assistant store manager with Winn Dixie, after which he worked as a security officer with Pinkerton/Burns Security at Providence Hospital. He was a deacon, president of the male chorus and director of the transportation ministry at Second Nazareth Baptist Church, where he was a member for 40 years.

Rufus Jacob Ford, 88, died Jan. 21. Mr. Ford, a S. C. State University graduate and Army veteran, served in World War II and the Korean War. He retired from the Veterans Administration as an accountant after 42 years of service.

Aaron McClerklin Jr., 89, died Feb. 10. He served in the Navy in 1943-45, serving in World War II. He would later work as a master plasterer and brick mason in South Carolina, New Jersey and New York. He retired from A.P. Gordon Construction Co. A member of Second Nazareth Baptist Church, he was a member of the senior usher board. He also was a member of the Capital City Ushers’ Union.

Nadine Hall Tate, 89, died March 6. The Columbia native attended Dreher High School and was one of the first majorettes at Dreher and the University of South Carolina. After traveling widely as an Army wife, she worked for Claude Creason Realty. The lifelong member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church taught second-grade Sunday school for more than 10 years and served as a Girl Scout troop leader. She was active with the American Legion Auxiliary, serving as S.C. president of the organization in 1976. For many years, she worked with Palmetto Girls State, organizing events and selecting candidates.

Jean Chalk Scott, 84, died March 8. She attended Winthrop College and graduated in 1948 from Baptist Hospital School of Nursing. She worked as a registered nurse at several hospitals in Columbia and retired from the USC Student Health Center. A member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church for more than 60 years, she belonged to the Lydia Circle.

Robert Wayne “Bob” Carswell, 79, died March 10. Dr. Carswell, who received degrees from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, served in the ministry for 15 years. During that time, he was as pastor of multiple churches, including St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Columbia. He held leadership roles in the S.C. and Southeastern synods and was director of church relations for Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas for four years.

He was an adjunct faculty member at the University of South Carolina and received his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1975. He was a staff psychologist with Southeastern Psychological and Educational Consultants in Columbia in 1975-1977 and owned Carswell & Associates from 1977 through 2010.

Reach Mr. Bolton, author of “God Is Grace: Lessons to a Father from a Son,” at wbolton@thestate.com.

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