Family and friends filled Columbia’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral to capacity and stood against walls and in entryways Wednesday to share in remembering the life of Rhett Oliver Wolfe, a longtime Columbia real estate broker.
Wolfe, broker-in-charge and partner at The Wolfe Co., died Aug. 8 after an accidental fall in North Myrtle Beach. He was 65.
Both the turnout and the sentimental, often whimsical memories recounted by his family and friends revealed Wolfe as an unusual man, in no small part, because of his humility and his example.
“I loved Rhett Wolfe,” said Jonathan Vipperman, a friend, fellow church member and real estate client. Father of three daughters and a generation younger than Wolfe, Vipperman said Wolfe helped him find a new home when his young family was growing, and never let go.
“He was my good friend. But I’m far from unique,” Vipperman said. “Rhett cared about people. And what is a good friend, if not someone that cares about you, takes a personal interest in you? Rhett had many, many good friends.”
A Columbia native and Army veteran, Wolfe was active in the community, serving on the Sisters of Charity Foundation Board of Directors, The Nurturing Center Board of Directors, the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business board of advisors and more than a dozen others.
Friends said one of Wolfe’s greatest passions was his work with the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina raising funds for a secondary school and other development projects in Haiti’s Central Plateau Region, and visiting the people there.
In describing Wolfe’s life, Vipperman turned to the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the church at Phillippi to follow Christ’s example of humbleness, found in Phillipians 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit. But in humility, put others before yourself. Each of you should look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others,” Vipperman quoted.
“I don’t know of anyone – anyone – who was a better example of that than Rhett Wolfe,” he said.
Wolfe loved children, his friends said, loved his wife, Kent, who died in 2011, and then fell madly in love with his new wife, Glenda, and her children. Conversations with Wolfe almost always turned to the Bible and faith, his friends said, and Wolfe prayed often for his family.
In Haiti, where Wolfe couldn’t speak the native Creole language and Haitian children couldn’t speak Wolfe’s native English, friends said Wolfe came to understand “there is no difference,” that all people hurt, love and laugh.
Elizabeth Wolfe, a daughter, joyfully recalled how Wolfe told his family he had found new love in Glenda, after losing what friends said was his “symbiotic” mate in Kent.
“My dad felt love and was going to do something about it,” Elizabeth Wolfe told the audience, noting the blended families reveled in the fact the two found each other.
Laughter came frequently during the service, a reflection of Wolfe, friends said.
“If you told him to come to your house for dinner dressed casually, you should be prepared – but you never were – that Rhett might show up dressed in a bathrobe. That’s casual (for him),” said the Rev. Canon Patricia C. Malanuk, homilist for the occasion.
“He loved his children deeply. And in a time too short, he loved Glenda’s children as his own. Grandchildren were their deepest delight. They called him Top. As you have already heard, he had an abundant love for other people’s children,” Malanuk said.