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Loved Ones Lost Last Week Affected Us
6/3/2015 4:27:49 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

Last week was rough for a lot of people who lost loved ones. Death be not proud for taking the lives of Sonya A. Heyward, Henry ‘Chick’ Heyward, Mrs. Frances Taylor Mack, Rev. Clifton Miller or James Wine. I sometimes write obituary stories. I think of it as a way to honor those who have given much to our community. When I started out at the local daily newspaper years ago John All, one of the best editor’s I’ve ever met, put me on the obit desk. He said it was good training that teaches some basic fundamentals of writing. That’s how I looked at the chore - a practical task that taught something.
But Mr. All said writing obituaries served another and perhaps more important purpose. He insisted that obituaries be accurate above everything else. He said that for most people, their obituary represented the only time they’d be featured in a newspaper article. He thought the people we wrote about in obituaries deserved that final respect. I gained a whole new perspective about obituaries.
Over the years I’ve written my share. Usually they’re about some outstanding member of the community, someone whose high profile status makes their name easily recognizable. But there are scores of people who pass our way whose names don’t ring bells. They touch lives and leave legacies, but don’t have the notoriety.
I thought I’d write about several of those folks this week. They are people many of us know, but most don’t know. They weren’t the folks who had their names in news papers all the time. They didn’t lead marches, head major businesses or hold public office. They were everyday people who did what they did leaving a wake on the surface of our community that marked their having passed this way.
I never personally knew Sonya Heyward, ‘Chick’ Heyward, Mrs. Frances Mack, Rev. Miller or James Wine. But ours is a small community. One can hardly do anything that doesn’t affect many others. And so it was with Sonya Heyward, Chick Heyward, Frances Mack, Rev. Miller and James Wine. They were very different people who did very different things. I can’t put a face on Chick. The fellas all tell me I know him, but I can’t place him.

Anyway, he must have been a good dude. All the guys at the watering hole know him and seem to have liked him. I ran into Evelyn Jakes’ brother Al the day of his funeral. Chick must have been a good dude to bring Al out of hibernation - and wearing a suit!
Sonya Heyward I really don’t know. She had been attending our church when she lost her battle with an illness. Her sister and several other family members came to church Sunday and left a love offering for us having welcomed her into our church family. They seem like good people. I know her aunt, Cordell is good people. She said Sonya who worked at the Post and Courier some 20 years, though only 40, was a mother to all the kids in her neighborhood. The good do die young. I’ve heard Mrs. Frances Mack’s name most of my life. Never could pinpoint why until her passing. Turns out she’s Mr. Frank Taylor’s sister. Mr. Taylor taught me to type. Because of him I got a job in this business. I’ve learned Mrs. Mack was quite the whippersnapper herself, leading innumerable people to better lives.
Mrs. Mack was phenomenal. Everybody I’ve ever heard mention her name spoke it with respect. I thought she was a teacher or something. I’m an Eastside guy and first generation Charleston. I didn’t know her history. But that lady was no joke! The Post and Courier did a heckuva job with her funeral notice in the June 1 edition of their paper. I don’t have the space to say much here, but I can say Mrs. Mack’s life affected many people in this community.
Likewise, Rev. Miller. Louise said as pastor of Trinity AME Church in Charleston, he baptised two generations of her children. I know his boys, John, Randy, Charles, Ward and Craig. Pickle, Rev. Miller’s oldest, went through school with me. I only now realize Pick went into the ministry. Many of my readers may know his son Rev. Randolph Miller.

And his grandson Rev. William C. Miller eulogized his grandfather. Can you imagine how many lives that man has affected? No disrespect fellas, but to me, Rev. Miller always will be Rev. Clifton Miller. James Wine was one of my contemporaries. I never knew Wine up close, he was west side and I’m Eastside, but we knew each other by sight. I remember Wine used to dress clean as a whistle. He was the kind of guy who stood out. So does his brother Bobby who will be remembered by generations of school children.
James Wine worked at the In and Out Car Wash West Ashley for years, but Donna tells me Wine was a chief organizer of students at Burke High back in the day. He led them to help the hospital workers in 1969 and themselves as they challenged inequities in the school system. Wine ended up preaching, an unlikely endeavor for him I thought. But nobody pays me to think.
One thing is for sure, I don’t have to think about the impact Wine and those others we buried last week had on us. We all know.

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