Rock Hill man uses prayers, songs to keep yards beautiful

adouglas@heraldonline.comJuly 22, 2013 

Maybe it's the mulch Sonny Feely makes himself or the years he spent learning about landscaping from his father.

But one thing is for sure: the tiger lilies in Feely's Rock Hill yard grow tall and his creeping jenny plants run rampant.

The prayers Feely sends up while he's tending his garden probably don't hurt either, he says.

The 63-year-old has been focused on making his yard and many other peoples' yards in Rock Hill look beautiful for more than three decades.

He learned most of his growing skills from his father Corey Feely who died five years ago.

He doesn't wear gloves and he doesn't use fertilizer, he said--just uses a lot of love to care for his lantanas, his rat tails and his Mexican sunflower plants.

The love for being outside and working in the yard was passed down.

His father kept a garden at home in the years he worked as an electrician for the city of Rock Hill.

He never owned a car, Sonny Feely said, and his father would ride his bicycle to work and anywhere else he needed to go.

Wherever Corey Feely went, his son was close behind.

One of seven children, Sonny Feely picked up the passion for plants from his dad and a knack for canning and cooking from his mother.

In the kitchen of his Parkmont Lane home, his table is full of canned beans, pickled okra and apples.

Some of the fruits and vegetables come from his garden--a well-taken care of patch with cantaloupes, squash and cucumbers.

Married to Marion Feely for 36 years, his son Sekari says, laughing, that his parents’ secret to a happy marriage has been because Sonny stays outside of the house a lot.

Sonny Feely says the secret has been their faith.

"Whatever you do, put God first," he said. "And that's what I do. I pray."

A deacon for more than 35 years at Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Catawba, Feely sings in church and when he's not looking after his yard or someone else's, he sings to shut-ins and senior citizens at three Rock Hill nursing homes.

He sings to his flowers and plants, too.

And, as "Paw Paw" to 14-year-old Kahlad, he teaches his granddaughter to mow the lawn and keep a beautiful yard.

Others love Feely's flowers so much that they pay him to take care of their yards.

In a three-ring binder, he keeps up with customer names and phone numbers on notebook paper.

One page--yellowed, with frayed edges and protected in a plastic sleeve--lists Feely's first customers from more than 30 years ago.

Of dozens of names on the page, there's one Feely never forgets: "Mrs. Latham."

He's worked in Latham's yard on Oak Street for nearly 35 years, he said, taking care of the property and its 12 pecan trees.

Although Latham has moved to Durham and the 95-year-old woman's home is empty, Feely said, it's always important to have a good-looking yard.

Retired now from Northern Tool and a 33-year career at the Ostrow Textile Company, Feely says he'll keep gardening and planting until he can't do it anymore.

"It relaxes my mind," he said.

Many people notice beautiful flowers at funerals but when you've passed you can't see them, Feely said.

"I love flowers. I like to enjoy them while I'm living."

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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