In 2013, Hendersonville residents mourned the passing of beloved townspeople who made their mark in every way from supporting their school to selling hardware to spinning tall tales.
Benjamin Franklin Lyles "B" Sims
Born in 1920, Benjamin Franklin Lyles Sims was known as B by most everyone in town. Sims, who died on March 21 at age 92, had seven siblings who also had four names apiece. A member of the Hendersonville High School football teams of the late 1930s that included Bill Powers, Bill Lampley and Bert Miller, Sims, a guard, was named All-Blue Ridge Conference in 1939, along with Miller.
After serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II, Sims ran a lounge on U.S. 64 toward Edneyville called the Top Hat. In 1950 he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Bill Powers, who would later become the city police chief. They started B&B grocery in the 1920 Maxwell Apartments building in the 600 block of Fifth Avenue West. Sims ran the market, later renamed Jax Pax, until November 1976.
In a profile of Sims in the Times-News in 1980, sports editor Buddy Chapman wrote that Sims lived as a "humanitarian, a man who spent a lifetime being nice to his fellow man."
Sims' wife, Bettie, preceded him in death. In 2002 Sims married Cecille Few "Teal" Wilkins, the widow of George Wilkins Sr., a longtime Bruce Drysdale Elementary School principal.
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Harold Lloyd McKinnish
Harold Lloyd McKinnish died on Aug. 21 after a period of declining health. He was 80.
A beloved Baptist minister who mentored dozens of young ministers, shepherded thousands of church-goers and praised Christ through bluegrass and gospel music over six decades, McKinnish pastored nine Baptist churches fulltime and 12 to 15 on an interim basis. He preached 2,200 funerals, sweated to save souls at dozens of revivals and delivered 17,000 sermons — documenting the spiritual temperature of the flock who listened from cold to warm to "on fire for God," his daughter said.
"He dated it, so he has this tremendous chronicle of his sermons — who was saved, who went to the altar, who rededicated," said Linda McKinnish Bridges.
So great was his influence that some knew him as "the Baptist Bishop of Henderson County." When he wasn't talking about the word, he was promoting the gospel through bluegrass music and his mastery of the mandolin.
To accommodate a throng of mourners, Jackson Funeral Home scheduled 6½ hours of visitation on a Saturday at East Flat Rock First Baptist Church.
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Stephen M. Black
Stephen M. Black, the fire-and-brimstone Times-News columnist who hated corruption and pomposity as much as he loved homeless dogs and the U.S. Marine Corps, died unexpectedly on the morning of Aug. 23 at the age of 68.
His columns provoked outrage and praise, jeers and tears but remained one of the most widely read features in the daily newspapers for many years.
In a farewell column he wrote earlier in the year, he explained what his mission had been.
"I looked around me and saw corruption, cronyism, bullying and incompetence," he wrote. "I saw animals being abused and murdered. I saw our city trees destroyed. I saw blatant racism. And hardly a word was said against any of it by anyone. It was time to put up or shut up. I stepped into the ring. I was scared, but with God's help, I fought against local evil with everything I could muster."
Asked why he started writing, Black said his answer was like Thoreau's when asked why he marched off into the woods.
"I began writing for the Times-News because it was time," Black wrote. "Have I lost heart? No, because I answered the call and fought local sin and wrongdoing. It is only the cowards who remain silent who need be ashamed."
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Roy Bush Laughter
Roy Bush Laughter was born in a log cabin he built with his own hands, he told audiences, and lived so far back in the mountains his family had to haul in sunshine in gallon jugs.
Laughter, a tall white-bearded Henderson County native who had about a dozen bit parts in movies basically playing himself, died on Sept. 30 at age 86. Known for his tall tales and hillbilly wit, Laughter had written three books of mountain tales, mostly tall, a few true. He had been on a winning streak in a "bullshooting" contest at the North Carolina Oyster Festival before his 8-year-old granddaughter Angel unseated him with a tall tale about a scarecrow — a story in which Bush was the butt of the joke.
"He had one of the greatest memories of anybody I know," said his son-in-law Alonzo Manley, married to Laughter's daughter Tammy. "I've talked to people that went to school with him. He was just an old rough guy. They said he was the smartest man in that school. They said they didn't know how he was so smart."
After he landed character roles in "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Patch Adams," Laughter set out for Wilmington and got his Screen Actors Guild card. In a resume, he described himself as 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds with skills that included: "Have gab, will travel; deck hand, great smile, cap and ball shooter and speaker," and the ability to speak "German, Scottish, Appalachian, redneck and salesman."
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Sammy Williams, a hardware merchant who worked all his life to make sure the needy had a roof over their heads, died on Nov. 21 at age 93.
A first generation American, Williams took over his father's hardware store on Seventh Avenue and ran it for more than 40 years, handing out free popcorn and helping to locate the right size drill bit.
Born in Detroit, Sammy came with his family to the N.C. mountains, first to Asheville. His father, Louis Williams, bet on real estate just before the Laurel Park land bust of the mid 1920s. "I guess we were fortunate because when the Depression started we were already broke," Sammy Williams said.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Florence Kaplan "Flossie" Williams, who died on May 18, 2009, at age 86. He spent his entire adult life as a member of the Hendersonville Housing Authority, and was an active member of the Four Seasons Rotary Club for many years.
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