Some Southerners by birth have a tendency to think ill of our neighbors to the north of the Mason-Dixon line. It could be a sad holdover from the Civil War or just a generalization based on various experiences people have had.
No matter, though, because in the case of one person who could be labeled a transplant from the North no finer gentleman settled in South Carolina. Due West, to be more specific.
Harry Stille Jr., 90, died Monday. Of those 90 years, 63 were spent calling Due West his home, along with his wife of 60-plus years. Most of those years were spent in service on the campus of Erskine College where he taught and served as head baseball coach for many years.
A New Jersey native, Stille’s education path took him to Kentucky and Alabama before he entered into military service in the U.S. Army. His Army background, teaching and coaching careers at an Army Dependents School in Okinawa served as his foundation for joining the staff at Erskine in 1957 after he earned his master’s degree.
But Stille was more than a coach and teacher. He put service to others into action representing Abbeville County in the state Legislature. Service at home in Due West was paramount as he was the town’s mayor for 30 years, and at the time of his death, he was yet serving Due West as a member of its town council.
He also served others outside elected office as a member of The Salvation Army advisory board based in Greenwood. Additionally, he served on the Abbeville Artist Guild Board, was a volunteer fireman, a Mason with the Dew Drop Lodge and was a founding member of the Due West Lions Club.
His service to his community did not go unnoticed. As his obituary notes, the Stille House in Due West that houses clients of the Burton Center for people with disabilities and special needs is named in his honor. The Erskine baseball press box also carries his name.
Stille possessed strong views on government, higher education and, frankly, in any arena where his interests lay. No doubt he ruffled the feathers of some while smoothing the feathers of others. But there is little doubt that whatever Harry Stille did or said was done or stated with the best of intentions.
Perhaps the best summary of Stille’s life — and his love for life and service to others — is found in the final paragraph of his obituary:
“Doc,” as he was known to many “lived with endless curiosity and each day with gusto, having a keen interest in higher education research, art and architecture, physics, astronomy, religion, evolution and politics. He enjoyed collecting Matchbox cars and fossils. His most cherished collection, however, were the many people who filled his life with love.”