Bryan Bluestein could have practiced law and perhaps had a more lucrative career.
But he felt continuing the family business was his responsibility, so he joined his mother Estelle at Bluestein’s, a dry-goods store on the corner of Park and Gervais streets. The two of them had the consummate Jewish relationship, fussing at each other one minute, sharing a sandwich the next.
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Bluestein prided himself on knowing customers and their purchasing habits. He never had a cash register; he did the math in his head. While he enjoyed the camraderie of being a shopkeeper, he would lock the doors immediately at 5 o’clock and be home 15 minutes later to play with his children.
Bluestein was curious about other people and cultures, visiting Europe a half-dozen times in his lifetime. Even after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in September 2012, he took private Spanish lessons.
Friend Richard Pittenger said when they went out to eat, Bluestein might order a second dinner “to go,” giving it to a homeless person he’d noticed outside. “Not to say he was Mother Teresa. There were times he was argumentative and stubborn about things, almost to a fault, but he was an interesting person and had an appetite for life.”
Bluestein was a swimmer at the University of Georgia and remained athletic, playing golf at Fort Jackson most every weekend.
He died Sept. 11, just 54 years old, leaving behind his wife, Marti Bluestein, and their three children, Kinsey, Sydney and Reece.
Solomon Bright registered for the draft in 1943 and, though he couldn’t swim, quickly found himself in the U.S. Navy.
One of only a handful of African-Americans on the USS Bowers, Bright was trained as a cook.
But officers discovered his years of hunting in the woods around Blythewood made him a marksman, so they trained him as a gunner, too. He helped down the kamikaze pilots attempting to sink “the ship that wouldn’t die,” earning him the nickname “Little Bright.”
Back home, Bright was a mechanic for the cab company, keeping engines and electronics running like a top.
He was a great bowler, too, a member of the 250 Club who bowled with a league every Friday night. He exercised faithfully at the senior center and sang in the men’s chorus at First John Baptist Church. He had one son, Anthony.
Bright put on a suit every day, even when he was just sitting around the house. “I’m Navy,” he would say. “We dress.”
He was 89 when he died on May 5.
At 90, Diana Wise dressed to the nines, wearing high heels and designer jeans to go out shopping at least twice a week.
She loved fashion, makeup and department stores. She spent a 40-year career at the Tapp’s cosmetics counter, but often strayed into women’s wear, telling a customer: “I know something that would look gorgeous on you.”
Mrs. Wise was tall and slender, with dark hair and eyes and a beauty mark on her left cheek.
She was generous with compliments, always highlighting other people’s best qualities. One of the elderly mourners at her funeral said, “I don’t have anybody to tell me I’m pretty anymore.”
She was quick to write notes of encouragement, too; her husband used to tease that she’d send a note to someone who stubbed a toe.
Mrs. Wise was married for 63 years to Joe Wise and they had one daughter, Diana Smith. She acquired the family nickname “Mimi” because she refused to be called “grandmother.”
She was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago and died Oct. 20.
When Larry Gates said he was going to do something, he did it.
His dependability and activism brought positive change to the historic Whaley Street corridor and Olympia community, where he was a lifelong resident.
Before his death Nov. 17 at age 86, Gates, founder of the Whaley Street Neighborhood Association, played an instrumental role in planning and moving forward with such projects as the redevelopment of 701 Whaley and the Olympia-Granby Mills apartments, as well as the restoration of the World War I Doughboy monument in Olympia.
“When he wanted something, he was going to get it,” said Jim Jaco, who grew up with Gates. “And it was going to be his way, and he was going to stand up for it.”
Jaco, an active force with Gates in bettering the neighborhood, witnessed the influence Gates had on the area, from being a mill worker to a Columbia police lieutenant, from championing neighborhood projects to loyally teaching Sunday School at Whaley Street United Methodist Church for more than 60 years.
He remembers his friend Gates as a good athlete, a good fisherman and a good example.
“The community was like a family,” Jaco said. “The people were good people. They had a lot in common, they just had to have a leader. And that was Larry.”
Ezekiel Hilliard Trezevant Jr.
Ezekiel Hilliard Trezevant Jr. spent his professional career in the funeral business, making sure the families who came to Trezevant Funeral Home and Crematorium were treated with dignity.
“He knew a lot of people could not afford funeral homes if they did not have insurance,” his son, Bruce Trezevant, said. “He did everything to keep the funeral at a low cost.”
His father, a graduate of C.A. Johnson High School and the Atlanta College of Mortuary Science, also looked ahead. In 1989, two decades after establishing his funeral home, Ezekiel Trezevant built the first, and only, minority-owned crematorium in the state. The crematorium cremates for 98 percent of the minority-owned funeral homes in the Midlands.
But his son said his father’s legacy extends far beyond his business.
Ezekiel Trezevant, who died Nov. 29 at age 83, was the first African-American to serve on the S.C. Funeral Directors Association and used that position to assist other minority-owned funeral businesses.
“I would say his biggest legacy is helping other black funeral home directors stay in business,” Bruce Trezevant said. After retiring from the Los Angeles Police Department, he returned home to work with his father during the past two-and-a-half years.
“I learned so much about my father during that time. He has always done so much for the community.”
Among his father’s most distinctive possessions was the restored 1937 Buick hearse that he used to transport the deceased from church to cemetery.
“I know he loved that hearse,” his son said. After funeral services at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, Ezekiel Trezevant took his last ride in the hearse, to St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery where he was buried.
Donna Dee Crump Lewis
Donna Dee Crump Lewis believed in the healing power of dance, spending four decades as a ballet teacher at the Dee Crump School of Dance founded by her mother, Lella Dee Colley Crump.
Lewis also founded the Eboni Dance Theatre, a education initiative modeled after the Dance Theater of Harlem, which combined classical dance with contemporary Afro-fusion influences. She was involved with Ann Brodie during early years of Columbia City Ballet.
She brought dance and movement everywhere she went, including her church Wingard United Methodist.
Lewis died Sept. 22 at age 72.
Even though Earl Brown was originally from Jacksonville, Fla., he had a deep love for the Midlands community and was always looking for the best in people.
He was a public servant who was involved in numerous organizations and touched lives all around him.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, for whom Brown worked as deputy district director of the Second Congressional District, recalled the efforts he made for community and friends.
“It was ironic, but came as no surprise to me, that many of the organizations that were asking me to come to their events had Earl as a member of that organization,” Wilson said. “He did so much for the community.”
Brown was involved with the Richland County Airport Commission, NAACP, National Teachers Association, United Way of the Midlands, Columbia Rotary Club and the Columbia Urban League, among others.
“He is a very deserving gentleman of the praise he gets,” Wilson said.
Brown died July 24 at age 82.
James “Connie” Farley loved to build things.
Farley was born in a lumber camp in Tennesee during the Great Depression. He knew from an early age he wanted to be a surveyor, even skipping a grade in elementary school to fast track his way into night school to learn trigonometry. He joined the Navy on his 18th birthday and was sent to the University of South Carolina for OCS and then to Notre Dame, and was later commissioned an ensign.
He would later return to USC to complete a degree in civil engineering, eventually starting a house-building business. He also taught engineering at USC, then at Richland (now Midlands) Tech, eventually becoming the chair of the engineering division. He left Tech in 1974 to start a commercial construction business that included high school and college stadiums. A man of strong faith, Farley also helped build several churches around Columbia, among them Long Creek Church of Christ in Northeast Richland.
“He was one of the most practical engineers you’d ever come across, and he had an architectural mind,” Jim “Butch” Farley Jr. said of his father.
Farley and his wife, Jane, loved family, raising eight children together.
Maxey Love, a friend, remembered the first time he saw Farley pulling up to church in his green station wagon. “He dropped the tailgate and eight well-dressed kids climbed out of that station wagon,” Love said. “He loved his family, and we always had enjoyable experiences at his home.”
Farley’s eight children would give him nearly 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He died Sept. 23 at age 89.
Edna McMorris was just 46 when her beloved husband Mack died, and she felt her life had ended.
But she would go on to explore her own creative talents and travel the world. She had a refrigerator magnet that read, “I never met a plane ticket I didn’t like.”
She took over the catering business she ran with her husband, showcasing her skills as a master cake decorator with a degree from Chicago’s Wilton School of Cake Decorating.
McMorris also was intrigued by technology and gadgets. She was one of the first people in her circle to get a home computer and hands-free Bluetooth. She kept up with current events.
She always had pets — at the time of her death, a devoted, 9-year-old poodle named Pierre.
During the last 15 years of her life, her church was her biggest joy. She sang soprano at First Baptist Church in downtown Columbia and especially enjoyed the pageantry surrounding the Celebration of Liberty, as her late husband had a military career.
Meanwhile, the Prosperity native presided over a family of three daughters, Linda Myers, Gail Graham and Cathy Miller, and was a proud grandmother and great-grandmother.
She was 80 when she died May 1.
Fiercely independent, a straight talker, generous almost to a fault and an outspoken advocate for the blind, Lawrence "Mack" Nettles played a role in helping to craft policies at the S.C. Commission for the Blind.
A lifelong visual impairment didn’t stop Nettles from clearly seeing the value of honest work.
For 40 years, until not long before he died April 5 at age 74, Nettles worked for the S.C. Commission for the Blind, most recently as a concessions vendor at a federal prison in Edgefield. Nettles also was a mentor to students at the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind, which he attended after leaving his home in St. George at age 15.
People would come to Nettles for advice all the time, said his niece, Rose Carter, who cared for Nettles in his final days.
Her Uncle Mack loved the Clemson Tigers, Atlanta Braves and Lizard’s Thicket, Carter said. But more than that, he loved to work and to give.
“He never wanted anyone to ever treat him like he was handicapped,” Carter said. “He never thought of himself as handicapped. He just thought of it as ... a roadblock.
“He made sure that the blind got treated like everybody else did. That was his passion.”
R. Proctor Davis
When Proctor Davis’s wife, Martha, first spotted him, she wanted his horse. Her father bought it for her, but she’d eventually get a husband out of the deal, too.
A talented artist and prize-winning hair-dresser, Davis celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with Martha shortly before he died Aug. 23 at age 74.
His pastor for more than 20 years at Trinity Church in Columbia, Terry Roberts, remembers Davis as “a person of such uniqueness that he would stand out in a crowd.”
An artistic soul, Davis’s career included playing the role of “Stanley the Clown” on local television in the 1960s. Dressed as Stanley, Davis would visit children in hospitals. He proposed to his wife while dressed in his makeup and Stanley suit.
Davis also worked as art director for Columbia’s WNOK station and, for some 40 years, owned the Devine Fashions beauty salon.
There, he styled hair for the likes of governors’ wives, various dignitaries and, once, a Hollywood actress. He shared the space in the small shop with Martha, a florist.
“He was just a very unusually gifted man in a lot of different ways,” Roberts said.
Dave Whitener Jr.
Dave Whitener Jr. had a passion for the law.
He graduated from USC’s law school in 1969, practicing law with Calvo & Lee, which later evolved by 1985 to become Whitener & Wharton, P.A. He practiced business transactional law for more than 44 years, the last 28 years with his law partner, L. Patricia Wharton, whom he married in 2003.
Whitener is said to have been someone who never knew a stranger, a man blended of talent, passion and storytelling. His love for a fair deal was only rivaled by his love for the Gamecocks and his wife.
To give back to the legal community he cared so much for, Whitener became an adjunct professor at USC’s law school, teaching real estate transactions courses for 24 years. He also taught real estate law courses for the Continuing Legal Education program with the S.C. Bar Association. Director Terry Burnett said he remembers Whitener as a selfless and giving person who always had time for anyone who needed his help.
Whitener was involved in numerous community organizations and received many honors for his leadership in law.
He died Sept. 14 at age 70.