Bolton: Midlands residents who passed away sent ripples through our community

Associate EditorMay 15, 2014 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

— Mother Teresa

SARAH E. BOWMAN sent her share of ripples throughout our community.

Mrs. Bowman, a Booker T. Washington High School and Allen University graduate, taught school for 22 years. She began her teaching career in Dorchester and Fairfield counties and later taught at Richlex High School. Before retiring in 1978, she taught at John G. Richards School for boys on the Department of Juvenile Justice campus.

Even after she retired, the ripples kept spreading. She served as cafeteria monitor at Dutch Fork and H.E. Corley elementary schools and a student mentor at Irmo Elementary. She was the first African-American to serve as an Irmo town election commissioner, volunteered at Town Hall and served as a Lexington County poll worker. She also was an Okra Strut volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors for Sharing God’s Love.

Amazingly, all of that work did nothing to dampen her roles as wife, mother, grandmother, friend and committed church member. Mrs. Bowman, a sweet, caring, witty woman, who died April 2 at age 87, certainly will be missed by her family, friends and neighbors.

So will the many other members of our Midlands community who have passed away in recent months.

From time to time, I write about some of those whose names are published on the obituary pages of The State. We might not have known them, but they all were our neighbors, and they all sent their own ripples through our community. Whether their impact was just in their own personal sphere or on a larger scale, they helped shape who we are.

Here are some others of our friends and neighbors who lived, worked, volunteered and worshipped among us who are now gone. But their ripples continue, challenging each of us to make our own mark:

•  Arnold Milton Levinson died Sunday at age 86. He attended Barnwell public schools, The Citadel and the University of South Carolina. He served in the Army as a medic in Korea. Mr. Levinson was the founder of Brittons clothing store, which was established in 1949, and was considered a pioneer in the S.C. fashion industry. He was active in the business until the time of his death. He was a member of Beth Shalom Synagogue.

•  Thomas Howard Wright Jr., also known as Gary, died May 7 at age 49. I met Mr. Wright in our pre-teens, and we attended A.C. Flora High together. He worked in food service for a number of years here in Columbia, including as a banquet server at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. As you can imagine, he met people of all stripes. And they all were greeted with a consistent, broad smile and happy-go-lucky personality.

•  Solomon Bright died May 5 at age 89. Mr. Bright was a young man when he was drafted into the Navy, where he served as an officer’s steward and gunner. He became a World War II hero on April 16, 1945, when a kamikaze slammed into the bridge of destroyer escort USS Bowers as it cruised off Okinawa. Mr. Bright would help shoot down two of the deadly planes; although a third would slam into the pilot house and claim the lives of dozens of sailors, the USS Bowers miraculously survived, and many were spared.

After his service in the military, Mr. Bright spent many years as a limousine driver, a Blue Ribbon Cab driver and a mechanic. After leaving the Navy, he would dress in a suit and tie every day, even when working on cars. “I’m Navy,” he would say. “We dress.”

•  Dr. Randall “Randy” Siber died May 3 at age 63. Dr. Siber earned an undergraduate degree from Kent State University and his doctor of dental surgery from Ohio State. He served as a dentist in the Navy, from which he retired with the rank of captain. He was a member of the staff at WJB Dorn VA Medical Center and a member of First Presbyterian Church.

•  Wilbert Howard died May 2 at age 84. He served in the Army during the Korean War era. Mr. Howard, well-respected throughout Columbia, started his business career with Howard’s Grocery Store on Wheat Street. He would later open Howard’s Fuel and Oil, a service station, as well as Howard’s Garage and Puff Howard Towing.

Mr. Howard, father of S.C. Rep. Leon Howard, was an active member at Antioch Baptist Church, where he served on the deacon and trustee boards and as director of the jubilee choir.

•  Edna Ruth Mayer McMorris died May 1 at age 80. An active member of First Baptist Church, Columbia, she sang in the choir and performed in the Christmas pageants and the Celebration of Liberty programs. Mrs. McMorris, who retired from AT&T after many years of service, was a master cake decorator. After her husband’s passing, she continued to run McMorris Kitchen, which was known throughout South Carolina for prize-winning cakes and home-cooked catered meals. Mrs. McMorris was active in many organizations, including Gold Star Wives, Telephone Pioneers and the AARP.

•  Aileen Dickinson died April 8 at age 88. Dr. Dickinson, who earned an undergraduate degree in speech at Northwestern University and a master’s in speech pathology at the University of Michigan, enjoyed a long career as a speech pathologist. She earned her doctorate at the University of South Carolina in special-education administration.

She founded St. Nicholas Speech School in Greenwood and was director of speech and hearing at Fernald State School in Boston. Dr. Dickinson served as adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina for 15 years. She was active in theater and was the director of the Greenwood Children’s Theatre and founder of the Gateway Players in Southbridge, Mass. She was a lifelong member of the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association and a 50-year White Rose member of Kappa Delta Sorority.

Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or wbolton@thestate.com.

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