Fred Sheheen prized his family, his faith and his role as an education advocate in South Carolina.
But he also loved music, and never was afraid to sing and dance “with complete abandon,” his son, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, recalled Thursday.
Hundreds packed into Camden’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church Thursday for a funeral Mass for the former head of the state Commission on Higher Education, killed Monday in a car crash in Kershaw County.
Among those attending were former S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, Sen. Joel Lourie and state Reps. James Smith and Beth Bernstein. Still more stood outside, unable to find room in one of the church’s three wings.
“On behalf of the entire Sheheen family, we thank you for being here,” Vincent Sheheen said, beginning a 12-minute eulogy that evoked more laughter than tears. “He’d have loved it.”
The Rev. John Zimmerman said Fred Sheheen had a servant’s heart, working to ensure “that education was possible for those who desired it to become the best person they could be.”
“As a Christian, he endeavored to be a disciple of Christ not only on Sundays, but seven days a week,” he said.
Vincent Sheheen joked Zimmerman gave the “official version” and vowed to share a little more from “behind the scenes.”
He said his father’s great failing might have been that while he was a man of faith, he “loved his family more than anything.”
“He would have made a terrible disciple, father,” Sheheen said to laughter, “because he would have never left his family.”
Sheheen recalled his father’s trademark laugh, his adoration of his grandchildren and his tendency to “go wild on the dance floor with my mom, his daughters, anyone who would dance with him.”
Fred Sheheen was “drunk, literally, with life,” Vincent Sheheen said.
“He never cared about how he looked or what people thought. He was celebrating the rawness of living. He loved every minute of his life.”
Fred Sheheen also was “downright peculiar,” with a terrible taste in ties, an affinity for Scrabble and a habit of saying exactly what was on his mind, his son said.
He religiously watched the nightly news – he loved watching MSNBC host Rachel Maddow – and was a die-hard Democrat.
“He was that because he loved people,” Vincent Sheheen said. “He cared about people. That was the end of the story.”