Good Will Ambassador: Clarence Witherspoon active in ‘everything’

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By Jenny Hartley

VAN WYCK – Clarence Witherspoon isn’t one to sit around.

The Van Wyck resident works for the Budd Co. as a janitor at the Indian Land schools. He’s an active, lifelong member of White Oak AME Zion Church, where he serves as chairman of the trustee board, a class leader and president of the usher board. He’s also president of the Lancaster District ushers.

Witherspoon is also a member of Charlotte Road/Van Wyck Volunteer Fire Department, something he’s done for 40 years, still getting up in the middle of the night to respond to car crashes and fires. He’s also on the board of directors for the Indian Land Rescue Squad.

He’s a staff member at Stewart Funeral Home in Heath Springs. He’s active with the Van Wyck Community Club and president of the Van Wyck Crime Watch. He’s a member of Lincoln Lodge No. 162 and president of the Van Wyck Democratic Party.

For 10 years, Witherspoon served as a reserve deputy, serving with former Lancaster County sheriffs Nae Parks and Williford Faile.

“His community, his family, his church – he’s just into everything,” said Van Wyck resident Jane Massey.

Witherspoon, 77, is more active than many people half his age.

“I stay busy,” he said.

Witherspoon retired from the S.C. Highway Department in 1993. He said he “sat down” for five years, but it didn’t suit him.

“It just wasn’t for me, because I’m not a lazy person,” Witherspoon said. “I just feel better doing it. I feel a lot better when I stay on the go than when I’m sitting around. I think it keeps me going.”

Witherspoon was looking forward to the annual Van Wyck Thanksgiving celebration, which rotates among four churches in the tight-knit community.

The service was held Sunday at Van Wyck Presbyterian Church, but Witherspoon’s pastor at White Oak AME Zion, Allen Stewart, led the service.

That’s pretty much how things are done in Van Wyck, Witherspoon said.

On Dec. 13, community members, black and white, will go to White Oak, Van Wyck Presbyterian, Van Wyck Methodist and Trinity Presbyterian churches for brief programs and the town’s annual Lighting of the Way.

“It does a great thing,” Witherspoon said. “Every year it gets larger and larger. It brings the community together.”

On Dec. 20, White Oak AME Zion will hold a community Christmas dinner. Just as many whites as blacks show up for the fellowship, Witherspoon said.

“We have a glorious time,” he said. “We all just love one another. We all participate and try to make it a better place to live. Not too many communities have that. We’re just a big, loving family.”

Richard Vaughn, president of the Van Wyck Community Development Club, said Witherspoon is special because he’s lived in the area all of his life.

“He’s always been active in the community,” Vaughn said. “He’s one you can always depend on. When he says he’s going to be there, he comes. He’s always willing to help out.”

Witherspoon was born in what was known as the Springdale community about four miles south of Van Wyck. He and his late wife, Jessie Witherspoon, raised six children, and had six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The Witherspoons were married 49 years when Jessie died in 2004.

Being active in so many things helps keep Witherspoon going. But he’s quick to say that the memory of his beloved wife is what keeps him strong.

He pulls a necklace chain out of the collar of his work shirt, showing the collection of rings his wife used to wear.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Witherspoon said. “Every time you see me, you see a part of her.”

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at 283-1151