Fountain Inn couple remembered for their dedication to faith, family and country

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July 1, 2023 by Shirley Adams - Views: 53

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Fountain Inn couple remembered for their dedication to faith, family and country


At the Fountain Inn Museum, near the entrance to its main room, stands a plexiglass display case holding a WWII soldier’s uniform, a U.S. flag, a picture of a young soldier with his wife, and a slim volume entitled “Together Forever.” This is the story of the man who wore that uniform, the woman who loved and married him, the sacrifices they made, and the legacy that they left behind.

Luther Elihu White, the second of eight surviving children, was born on November 21, 1910, in his parents’ home just six miles from Fountain Inn. His father was a farmer who also ran a sawmill and operated a store for a while. But in 1922, everything changed when twelve-year-old Luther’s father died of typhoid fever. In subsequent years, Luther lost one brother to diphtheria and pneumonia and a sister to a tragic accident with a cotton gin. S589-5.jpgAs a young adult, Luther farmed, held down a part-time job in a grocery store, moved topsoil as part of road work for WPA, delivered newspapers, and worked at Pacific Mills. He longed to go to college and attended Furman briefly but lacked funds to continue.


One day, Luther was talking to his cousin in a church parking lot when he caught sight of Frances “Carolyn” Henderson as she was leaving a revival service with her sister. Born in Owings on September 28, 1923, Carolyn, the second child in the family, had a brother and three sisters. Her family lived on a farm, raised chickens, and grew cotton. After graduating from high school, Carolyn longed to be a nurse, but she was too young to apply to nursing school. So, she took a job at the Laurens County farm office. Luther and Carolyn officially met on September 14, 1941. Dating proved challenging because of the gas rationing during WWII. And WWII expanded to include the United States when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that same year.


Carolyn and Luther married on June 6, 1942, but they could spend little time together. Luther worked at Pacific Mills and lived with his mother while Carolyn resided in Laurens where she continued at the farm bureau. The gas shortage affected their ability to get together, and then, in September 1942, Luther volunteered for the army. His training began with overnight classes at Greenville High School. They would see each other once or twice a week. Then, Luther moved to several postings in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida for additional training. Carolyn followed her husband to these different sites, securing part-time jobs for extra money, washing and ironing his clothes. At last, they sent him to Angel Island in California and from there to his overseas assignments in the Pacific Theater where he served as a T/3 Sergeant in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Force. After the marines took an island, he helped set up radar and weather stations for monitoring purposes and to aid pilots. His job also involved hard manual labor such as digging trenches and erecting buildings. Luther witnessed a lot of destruction and wreckage in the wake of those hard-fought battles.


S589-2.jpgBefore Luther left in November 1944, he knew that Carolyn was expecting their first child. During those long months of service, they stayed connected through letters which Fran, their daughter, now possesses. In those letters, Luther spoke of his great love for Carolyn and his longing to be there when their child was born. But Jimmy came into the world while his father was still stationed overseas. Then, Luther wrote how much he wanted to hold their new son. Luther found himself at the airport in Manilla on the day when Admiral Nimitz arrived, and General Douglas MacArthur greeted him. Luther was in the area when the Japanese surrendered. The war ended in early September 1945, but it was not until November that Luther began the journey home. He hoped to arrive by Christmas but did not get there until December 28, 1945. At last, he hugged his beloved wife once more and met his ten-month old son, who was already walking.


After the war, Carolyn, Luther, and their son Jimmy settled in the White homestead for a while, and Luther returned to farming. In 1947, the couple became partners with Earl and Hester White in the Fountain Inn Plumbing and Electric Store which they successfully operated until 1981. In 1954, they decided to build a home on Garrett Street in Fountain Inn. They had enough land for an extensive vegetable garden and became well-known for their beautiful flowers, particularly roses. Ultimately, they had two children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Their son, James, known as “Jimmy,” also served in the Signal Corps, received a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University, and worked for IBM until his retirement. He now resides with his wife Margaret in Mint Hill, North Carolina. Their daughter, Fran Kalk, received a B.A. in Education from Furman where she majored in Special Education. Now retired, she served many years in the education field and currently resides in the Simpsonville area with her husband Rick.


Carolyn enjoyed travelling and collected souvenirs from all over the world. Passionate about music, she became a dedicated member of the Fountain Inn Music Club. In 2017, they named an addition to the Fountain Inn Activities Center after Carolyn and Luther. Luther passed away on May 1, 2003, at the age of ninety-two, Carolyn on April 19, 2021, at the age of ninety-seven.


Today, America faces difficult issues including health care, Social Security, the environment, immigration, violence, culture divides, and scattered wars and conflicts throughout the world, but they are not insurmountable. Consider that Luther White survived the 1918-19 flu pandemic and both he and his wife Carolyn endured the Great Depression as well as World War II, events which sharply interrupted their life plans but did not stop them from flourishing. And what was their secret?


S589-1.jpgFirst, they wasted nothing. In her memoir “Together Forever,” Carolyn described how they made their own lye soap for washing clothes. They burned oak wood in the fireplace for warmth. Then, they recovered the ashes, placed them in a trough, and poured water through them. The collected water combined with grease from hog lard produced a soap. When left-over milk soured, they churned it. The cream part was used for butter while what remained became buttermilk. Whey floated to the top, and they gave that to the pigs. These lessons from their childhood became a part of their character.


Second, they lived by the Golden Rule. Long after his retirement and the closing of the store, Luther would do repair work for his friends. Carolyn and Luther packed and delivered vegetables from their garden to shut ins. Luther was a member and commander of American Legion Post 123, and they worked with this organization to distribute poppies and collect donations to meet the various needs of veterans. Carolyn served as a Red Cross volunteer for over thirty-five years and as a “Gray Lady” conducted community blood pressure checks. Over the years, Luther served in various capacities at his church while Carolyn taught Sunday School once a month at a local nursing home on behalf of their church.


Third, they persisted and endured. Despite the obstacles and hardships, they did not give up or lose heart. Those letters which served as a lifeline during Luther’s time overseas sometimes got delayed. It must have been hard to go for a while with no news in such a turbulent and uncertain time. S589-6.jpgFran, their daughter, remembers being three or four years old and riding in the car to church when her parents taught her the rhyme, “If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done; be the labor great or small, do it well, or not at all.” They lived out that maxim.

Finally, they had faith. Carolyn summed it up in her memoir when she wrote, “There was one thing that helped Daddy Luther and me through all our lives with handling situations that turned up like WWII, births of our children, going in business, illnesses, building our home, helping with the last days of our parents, and many other things. This one thing was our faith and trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


So, for this July 4th, do something different. Take a moment to remember and to thank God for those who came before, from the folks who risked their lives and fortunes to sign that Declaration of Independence to those whose sacrifices made possible the legacy of freedom that we enjoy today. Then, personally thank those who have helped you along the way. Finally, ask yourself these two questions. How can I make a positive difference in the lives of those around me? What shall be my contribution to this powerful legacy of freedom?

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