Edward Roper Jr.
Edward Young Roper Jr., who died April 20 in Columbia at age 85, was a stellar member of the “Greatest Generation,” those who came of age during World War II and went off to Europe and the Pacific to fight against Hitler and tyranny.
Roper’s sacrifice turned out to be greater than many of his fellow soldiers.
Raised in Lake City, he was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and, apparently taken for an American Jewish serviceman, was assigned to a Nazi slave labor camp.
There he endured brutal work-filled days and near starvation. Many of his comrades did not survive.
But Roper found another Lake City man, the late Mercer “Mutt” Poston, in his barracks. And the two stayed together and survived.
Roper, who went on to become a pharmacist and drugstore owner, recalled the ordeal in a May 2000 Memorial Day story in The State, shortly after he was granted reparations by the German government. Roper set up a fund to benefit the hungry with some of his reparations, making the donation in memory of Poston, whom he credited with saving his life.
“I reckon I’m getting old, and I know I’m sentimental, always was,” Roper said then. “But kids have no idea what their daddies and their granddaddies went through in order to save this world from Hitler. And they ought to be aware of it.”
When he spoke of his wartime experiences, he always reminded listeners that they should never forget the Jews who were destroyed by Hitler.
Lilease Wannamaker Rogers Hall, who died Aug. 26 in Columbia at age 87, spent more than 50 years in Richland 1 schools, making the language and culture of France accessible to students who walked through her doors at Columbia High School, C.A. Johnson High School and Booker T. Washington High School.
Married for 60 years to her college sweetheart, the late Benjamin Louis Hall Jr., Lilease Hall was the mother of six children, one of whom preceded her in death. But she served as mother and mentor to many more in high school and in colleges, where she also taught.
“Madame Hall,” as she was known to her students, was educated at S.C. State and the University of South Carolina, and did additional studies at universities in Montana and Ohio, Clemson and The Citadel, as well as the Sorbonne in Paris.
Honored as Teacher of the Year numerous times, Hall often opened her classes with the words, “Nous sommes intelligent” (“We are intelligent”), “Nous sommes polis” (“We are polite”) and “Nous sommes adorable” (“We are adorable”).
William Franklin Milliken, who died Nov. 28 at age 89 in Columbia, truly impacted the landscape of South Carolina.
Through his Milliken Forestry Co. and his many years on the S.C. Forestry Association board, he served as a mentor to many of the current leaders in the state’s timber industry. Some say that industry — with a $17.45 billion annual economic impact on the state — might have withered without Milliken’s foresight four decades ago.
Milliken was the guiding force behind a 1976 change that taxed agricultural property at a lower rate than nonagricultural property. Property values and county taxes were beginning to rise throughout the state, putting a burden on large farms. And while most farmers could adjust budgets year-to-year, timber growers needed to plan for a crop that takes 25-30 years to grow.
“That tax change allowed South Carolina to develop its forest products industry, because it allowed family farms to afford to keep land in trees,” said Billy Cate, director of the Congaree Land Trust.
While national tax and tariff changes have encouraged the state’s other major manufacturing industries to move outside the country, South Carolinians still “make” agricultural products. According to a recent study, timber ranks as the state’s top agricultural commodity and has nearly $1 billion in annual exports.
If you’re one of the 44,000 people employed by the forest products industry in the state, of if you just enjoy the beauty of tree-lined rural roads, industry leaders say you owe thanks to William Milliken.
Isaac McClinton Sr.
If it wasn’t for Isaac McClinton Sr., Rosewood’s Edisto Court Community would be nothing more than a radioactive nuclear laundry and a ditch filled with filth.
Instead, the community leader — who died earlier this month at age 84 — rallied his neighbors to get rid of the ditch and relocate the laundry facility. Now Edisto Court is home to a gleaming $500,000 city park, and city officials have spent thousands of dollars tearing down some of the neighborhood’s abandoned buildings to make way for new development.
Born in 1926, McClinton recently was inducted into the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods Hall of Fame.
“We respected and loved him very much,” said Bessie Watson, president of the Edisto Court Community. “Mr. McClinton worked in the community, and he worked in getting issues addressed in the community that had been kind of overlooked for many, many years.”
Thomas Southwood Linton was an attorney by profession, but his passion was recreation.
Linton, who died April 15 in Columbia at age 91, served in the Army Air Corp during World War II, graduated in 1949 from the USC Law School and had a long career in various government legal positions.
His most lasting legacy, however, grew out of what he did in his free time.
Linton helped start Dixie Youth Baseball for ages 8-12 in 1955, the Columbia Colt League for slightly older baseball players in 1960 and the Columbia Boys Club — now Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands — in 1959. He was among the local leaders in the effort that led to the construction of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in the 1970s.
And he was the chairman of the Richland County Recreation Commission from its inception in 1962 until 1995. In those 33 years, the commission built dozens of parks, swimming pools and playing fields. The commission-run golf course, LinRick, was named for Linton and fellow commissioner J.W. Derrick.
You might not have known Louise O’Sheal Younginer, but odds are if you’ve ever visited the town of Irmo, you’ve seen some of her historic photos.
Younginer, who died in Aug. 18 at age 85, was the town’s honorary historian. Her collection of historic photos adorned the walls of Irmo restaurants, the Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce and the Dunbar Funeral Home-Dutch Fork Chapel.
She was the granddaughter of Luther Mathias, Irmo’s first mayor, and the wife of Furman R. Younginer, who served 1961-77 as mayor while Louise Younginer was town clerk. Younginer’s ancestors were early settlers of Dutch Fork.
Dr. Charles Sloan
With his shock of white hair and lively smile, “Dr. Charlie” Rembert Sloan was the essence of a physician — a man who healed the sick and at the same time, with his friendliness and genius for listening, soothed the soul of those he met.
“He just loved people, and they loved him. When we would go out to eat after he retired, former patients would come up and hug him and tell him they loved him,” said Jim Hudgins, a longtime friend who delivered a eulogy after Sloan’s death.
For more than 40 years, Sloan, a Columbia surgeon who died March 17 in Columbia at age 87, was a fixture in the local medical community, treating thousands of patients.
When he retired in 1993 at age 78, he was elected president of the 300-plus member Columbia Rotary Club, a tribute to his low-key charisma and still potent leadership qualities.
Along his nearly nine decades, Sloan found time to excel in various areas, from being a University of South Carolina track star and senior class president to being a master rose gardener and Sunday school teacher at Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
“He was as cheerful a man as there is,” said fellow Rotarian Bob Ford.
Norma Smith Derrick spent her life at sporting events up until her death June 9 in Columbia at age 93.
Born Jan. 11, 1917, Derrick stormed onto the S.C. sports scene in the early 1930s as a player on the legendary Monetta High School girls basketball team. She once scored 100 points in a game and totaled 3,000 points during her two-year career. After high school, the Maine Redheads, a traveling exhibition team, offered her a contract, but Derrick’s family needed her to stay home and work on the farm.
In adulthood, Derrick continued her love of sports by following her three sons in their basketball, baseball and football careers at A.C. Flora High and the University of South Carolina. Her grandchildren also played sports and, once again, Derrick was on the sidelines cheering. She was known for heckling referees and umpires after bad calls.
In her older years, Derrick lost her eyesight but not her love of the game. She listened to USC ballgames, Duke basketball and Atlanta Braves baseball.
“She was a sports nut,” said son Norman Derrick.
Spero Pete Trakas
Every week, Spero Pete Trakas drove up to the Oliver Gospel Mission in his white delivery van filled with boxes of snack cakes, crackers, chips and other products sold through his vending business.
He would tell his son to run inside and get someone to come unload the goodies.
Trakas, who died Aug. 16 at age 86, was known for his generosity. He also gave snacks to the Prison Ministries and countless other charities or needy individuals.
Trakas, born in September 1923, had lost both parents by the time he was 15. His children believe he gave so much to others because he had benefited from similar kindness as a young man.
Trakas also was a World War II veteran, who was awarded a Bronze Star and received a Purple Heart after being injured in the Battle of Normandy.
Children at the Nancy K. Perry Children’s Shelter in Lexington knew Evon Brown, but more importantly, they knew her cookies.
Brown was an administrative assistant at the shelter, meaning she was the first one people would see when they came through the door.
She fell in love with the children and would often bake them things to make their stay at the shelter more comfortable.
“Everyone who came through the door, she greeted with love and a smile,” said Jean Moore, house mother at the shelter. “Miss Evon was the axle that made the wheel of the shelter turn.”
Brown died in Jan. 4 at age 59.
Lou Kaplan, who some refer to as the godfather of local community theater, died July 8.
Kaplan, 95, was the father of Kay Thigpen, Trustus Theatre’s co-owner and managing director.
An experienced actor, and quite the storyteller, he was involved with every local theater since 1958.
He helped found Workshop Theatre, and he was still performing on stages as an octogenarian.
Kaplan owned House of Fabrics on Main Street, and he lived upstairs from the store until a month before he died.
At his memorial at Trustus, Thigpen said her father was a gentle giant, opinionated and stubborn, before adding, “He was a playwright and actor who easily rewrote Shakespeare.”
Otis R. Taylor Jr.
James Kleckley Sr.
James Wade Kleckley Sr., who died Oct. 19 at age 84, spent nearly two decades in the major leagues, signing first with the Baltimore Orioles at age 17 and then pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians.
His sports exploits — including playing in Presbyterian College’s historic 1943 win over Clemson — were enough to last a lifetime.
But off the field, Kleckley’s community activism earned him his greatest lifelong pleasure.
The businessman founded the Lexington County chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and, in honor of his Christian service, Kleckley was inducted in 1993 into the South Carolina FCA Hall of Fame.
Kleckley worked with recovering alcoholics and visited local prisons with His House Ministries and managed the U.S. 378 Lexington His House thrift store. He was later ordained as a minister of the Missionary Church International.
C.C. “Cotton” Harness III died April 26, after a distinguished career as a legal expert on environmental law.
Harness, 61, was one of the foremost authorities in South Carolina in coastal environmental law.
He was chief attorney for the S.C. Coastal Council as it sought to implement a controversial beach management law in the late 1980s. He later represented people seeking to develop along the coast.
A longtime Charleston area resident, Harness had more than 30 years of trial experience and was instrumental in promoting dispute resolution systems for organizations, both private and governmental, according to University of South Carolina officials.
Jack D. Ray Sr.
Jack D. Ray Sr., a local musician and songwriter, died Feb. 28.
The 79-year-old hosted the 1960s morning radio show “Jack Ray and The Snowmen,” which was also the name of his band. Folks of a certain age might recall the band’s songs “Ballad of the Wateree” and “Ballad of the Swamp Fox.”
A Lugoff native, Ray was a charter member of the Lugoff Optimist Club, a Mason and a member of the Jamil Shrine. He worked at DuPont for 35 years.
Otis R. Taylor Jr.