Notable deaths in 2013: They left our community a better place

Joey HollemanDecember 30, 2013 

Lucile Nassar Bistany

Lucile Bistany remained true to her Lebanese culture, dedicating her life to caring for ill or elderly family members and working as a merchant of valuable, colorful rugs imported from the Middle East.

She was 97 when she died Jan. 27, a day after leaving her Forest Acres home for the hospital.

She and her husband, Edward, moved to Columbia in 1943 to establish Bistany’s Oriental Rugs, first operating out of the garage of their home. They had one child, Eddie.

Born with a withered right hand, which she never mentioned or complained about, Lucile Bistany learned to reweave the hand-knotted woolen rugs like those sold by Bistany’s for the floors of the Governor’s Mansion.

Her mother, sister, brother and cousins joined the Bistanys in Columbia, socializing with other members of the Lebanese community over homemade food like kibbe, tabbouleh and sweets.

A gentle person, Lucile Bistany continued driving her big white Cadillac well into old age. She was a longtime member of Shandon Baptist Church.

Dawn Hinshaw

Norma Ferguson

Norma Ferguson is remembered for her more than 45 years of leadership and mentoring with the Girls Scouts, including 27 years of service to the Fort Jackson Girl Scout community.

The 83-year-old – a lifelong Girl Scout member as a troop leader, trainer and council member – died July 12.

“Norma was the epitome of a Girl Scout,” said Susan R. Schneider, director of public relations and advocacy for Girl Scouts of South Carolina-Mountains to Midlands. “She lived the leadership values she taught generations of girls and she was just as comfortable with outdoor primitive camping as she was staying overnight in a hotel room, perhaps even more so.”

The Fort Jackson Girl Scout Hut was renamed the Sparkle House in memory of Ferguson’s service, her cheerful and adventurous spirit and the “sparkle” she shared with so many Girl Scouts over the years.

Ferguson was an active member of the Breath of Life Lutheran Church in Blythewood and a former member of Trinity Lutheran Church. She was a team member on numerous S.C. Lutheran Synod mission trips to Tanzania and served as a tutor for elementary children and military personnel.

Bertram Rantin

Ed Fetner

Ed Fetner put Lake Murray on the map – literally.

For more than 50 years, he produced maps that are the bible for boaters and anglers on the 47,500-acre manmade lake.

Many of the names he applied to lake features – including an island for his wife, Nadine, – remain in use colloquially even though none are officially approved by state and federal officials.

His maps are known for exactitude, a trait reflecting his training as an engineer.

Fetner, who lived in the Chapin area, also wrote columns for local newspapers on lake history, along with producing maps of Lake Wateree and the Santee Cooper lakes. He also was a boating safety advocate.

He died June 26 at 91.

Tim Flach

Robert “Bob” Funderburk Sr.

Hospitality could have been Robert “Bob” Funderburk Sr.’s middle name.

Funderburk, 74, who died Feb. 22, was a host to countless hundreds of people as general manager of the Capital City Club, the private club atop the high-rise building at Assembly and Gervais streets.

The Lancaster native honed his managerial and catering skills in Washington, where he worked at the Congressional Club and the Diplomat Hotel before returning to South Carolina.

But his time at the Capital City Club, founded in 1987 as the first private club to be integrated and open to all regardless of race, gender or religion, left a lasting mark on the city.

“We had to get into the modern century and get beyond our past,” said Shelvie Burnside Belser, a retired BlueCross BlueShield executive who was one of the club’s founders. “You could tell he knew he was sitting in that notch of history.”

Belser said Funderburk’s impeccable manners, great personal skills and sense of purpose in life made him the perfect host and friend. He also loved to pass on his knowledge of hospitality and dining to young people.

“He just dealt with everything with grace and dignity and made everyone feel important,” Belser said.

Carolyn Click

Doris Mae Dyson Green

Doris Mae Dyson Green hurried toward disaster.

As an American Red Cross volunteer, Green brought her experience as a mental health nurse to help survivors of earthquakes in California, hurricanes in Florida and even the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

“People get killed and maimed or hurt,” said her husband, Bill Groff. “Families get torn apart. It’s much more an exercise in mental health than people realize.”

Green had a gift for making people feel better, and she was as concerned about her fellow volunteers as she was their clients. She was an expert at calming those who were upset, Groff said.

“She would use this technique with people who were belligerent or mad,” Groff said. “She would talk quieter and quieter, and they would have to be quiet to hear her.”

Green, who worked as a mental health nurse at William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, began volunteering for the Red Cross after her children were grown. She used her experience to train other Red Cross volunteers when she wasn’t traveling to a disaster.

She and Groff, who also volunteered for the Red Cross, met in June 2001 while responding to the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison in Baker, La.

“There was a lot of stress,” he said. “I saw somebody who was very outgoing. She had a beautiful smile. When she touched people, and it’s not just me, people said she had a very healing touch about her.”

Green died Nov. 17 at age 78. She suffered a hemorrhagic stroke while watching a football game with her husband.

“Her kindness and thoughtfulness are carrying on through her family,” Groff said.

Noelle Phillips

Harry Hansen

The day Harry Hansen passed away, he was drawing

Throughout his life, the artist, who died Sept. 7 at age 71, would rise early to capture the morning mist with his watercolor paints at his Lake Murray house, where he enjoyed being outdoors and fly fishing.

Hansen was a professor at the University of South Carolina for 33 years, and his former students have now become teachers inspired by Harry, said his wife, Dee Hansen.

She said students have told her, “When I teach, I hear Harry’s words in my head.”

After he was diagnosed with dementia in his late 50s, Harry took a break from art for five years. But one day he started drawing again, and he drew for the rest of his life.

Cassie Cope

Mary Frances Sinclair Harris

Even at 90, Mary Frances Sinclair Harris kept her suitcase packed and carried golf clubs in the trunk of her car – just in case.

A world traveler and wine connoisseur, avid reader and history buff, Harris was known for her mischievous sense of humor and inquisitive nature.

She earned a living as a librarian. In retirement, she was part of the first class of docents of the S.C. State Museum, where she volunteered for 25 years.

She was good with children, seemed to know everybody in town and loved to go to concerts and the theater.

Because she wasn’t comfortable behind the wheel of a car after dark, she joked that her only interest in a man was finding someone who could drive at night.

She died Jan. 19 with esophageal cancer. She is survived by five children and their families, as well as a step-family.

Dawn Hinshaw

Andrea Kemp

While Andrea Kemp waged her personal battle with breast cancer, she worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others facing the disease.

The 37-year-old, who passed away Sept. 30 after a 12-year battle with cancer, was well-known among breast cancer support and research advocates.

Kemp helped found Second Chance, a Columbia-area support group for young women living with breast cancer. She is credited with connecting hundreds of young breast cancer survivors with monthly events and newsletters as well as the creation and sales of her signature beaded jewelry to raise funds for the breast cancer community.

Friends say she was a fixture at the annual Walk for Life.

“Andrea Kemp was an inspiration to many young women diagnosed with breast cancer throughout our community,” said Tiffany Winslow, a breast cancer nurse navigator at Palmetto Health Baptist. “She touched many lives and some of those young survivors continue her ministry throughout the community.”

Kemp also organized and led the Columbia branch of the Young Survival Coalition and was a volunteer and advocate for a local animal rescue center.

Bertram Rantin

Rick Milne

Dr. Rick Milne helped thousands of people in the Columbia area see better.

Milne, who died Jan. 15 at age 56, stayed on the cutting edge of eye surgery techniques. He was among the first in the state to offer new refractive surgeries in the 1990s. He also developed a modified version of conductive keratoplasty used to gently reshape the cornea, and he taught the procedure to other eye surgeons.

Rick was born in Columbia, graduated from Airport High School and USC. He left the Midlands to attend the MUSC in Charleston, and did his medical residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

He returned home to serve as chief of the eye clinic at Fort Jackson. He later was chief of ophthalmology at Providence Hospital and medical director of The Eye Center, a Columbia-based practice.

A man of strong Christian faith, Milne was known to lead his surgical team in prayer before each operation.

Clyde “Sonny” Patrick Jr.

Clyde Patrick was resting on the couch at home, watching a Western on TV, when he slipped away Oct. 17.

It seemed fitting that he died at lunchtime, his son, L.C., said.

After all, “Sonny” Patrick spent his life in the restaurant business – first joining his own father at the Columbia Sandwich Shop, then going to work at his late father-in-law’s business, Mack’s Cash Grocery on Laurel Street.

He started selling hot dogs to bring in more business and, in 1973, had the ramshackle store torn down to build a diner next door. He kept the Mack’s name.

Clyde Patrick was a man of routine. He opened every morning at 6, closed promptly at 4. Thirty years went by before he took a vacation.

Then, he decided to fulfill a dream by learning to fly. He loved to punch holes in the sky, as he called it.

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and his son, who worked alongside his father at the restaurant, earning him the nickname L.C., or “Little Clyde.”

Dawn Hinshaw

Frank Smoak

When Frank Smoak lived with his family in France, he ordered a guitar through the mail and taught himself how to play.

Around the seventh or eighth grade, he would go to his room and spend time figuring things out on the instrument.

Smoak became exceptional at the guitar and famous in Columbia and across the Southeast for his talent.

He earned a couple of degrees from the University of South Carolina, one in marketing and another in accounting. But when given the option to travel across Europe and play guitar or become a Certified Public Accountant, he followed his love for music.

Smoak played in bands throughout his life, and his various groups opened concerts for some well-known groups, among them Steely Dan, Savoy Brown and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Smoak played guitar up until just before he died Feb. 27, at age 63.

Cassie Cope

Robert “Bob” Pearce Wilkins

Robert “Bob” Pearce Wilkins, who died in January at age 79, was one of those people who cram so much into their days, you wonder when they have time to eat or sleep.

He also had such varied passions that people he touched in one field probably had no idea of his accomplishments in another field.

Wilkins earned law degrees from USC and Georgetown, and he went on to focus on estate planning. He also had a love for words and writing, serving as founding editor of several legal publications and the much more mainstream Sandlapper, a magazine that celebrated South Carolina culture.

While some lawyers of his generation grudgingly entered the computer world, Wilkins wrote software and guidebooks to help his profession make that leap.

He was an avid athlete – sailor, volleyball player, softball pitcher and tennis player. Well into his 60s, he was still recruiting friends to come to Folly Beach for weekly tournaments of half rubber, a quirky Southern beach sport played with a stick and half of a small rubber ball.

He and his wife of 57 years, Rose, raised four children – Robby, Wally, Sarah and Anne.

Wilkins loved Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, where he served on the zoo commission from 1986-2007, and he attended as many University of South Carolina football, basketball and baseball games as possible.

His last major writing effort was a 2003 book entitled “50 Things to Do with the Rest of Your Life,” but at that point it was hard to imagine there were 50 things he wanted to do that Wilkins hadn’t already done.

Joey Holleman

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