The city is mourning the loss of one of its most passionate boosters.
Bill Fenton, whose tireless devotion to Tega Cay earned him friends from one end of the peninsula to the other, died Wednesday, July 31, at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte. He was 87.
Mr. Fenton, an avid golfer and active member of the Vintage Club, was a relentless fundraiser for the Tega Cay Fire Department. He lived close to the city golf course and collected stray balls that he would clean up and sell, giving the proceeds to the fire department. Tega Cay Fire Chief Scott Szymanski said Mr. Fenton raised more than $10,000 for the fire department over the years with the used golf balls and around $50,000 overall, including annual sales of entertainment discount coupon books.
He was also volunteered with the department, helping with traffic control at fire and accident scenes and with the department’s finances.
“He was a very good steward of our fundraising and our money,” Szymanski said. He wanted to make sure it was right and it was right down to the penny on everything.”
Known for not being shy about his conservative views, Mr. Fenton practiced what he preached when it came to being fiscally conservative with the fire department’s treasury, Szymanski said, recalling with a laugh that “he never bought anything that wasn’t on sale. He’d drive to one drug store to get a deal on coffee and another to get water and if they had a two-case limit on the water he go out, wait two minutes and go back in to buy two more.”
A veteran of World War II who served as a Marine in the Pacific, Mr. Fenton had a world of respect for others who served in the military or in civilian life, Tega Cay Mayor George Sheppard said.
“I recently heard a story of how one of our police officers was in line to get breakfast at a fast food chain and Bill was in front of him in line and paid for [the officer’s] breakfast and didn’t say a thing. Just walked out. If you had a uniform on, Bill respected you – and he respected all human beings,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard called Fenton “a passionate human being who had a zeal for being involved and a passion for the fire department and national politics. He was a gentleman and always listened to someone else’s point of view. He would try his darnedest to change your opinion, but he would respect your opinion even if he didn’t agree with it.”
“Gentleman” is one of the words that keeps popping up when friends talked about Mr. Fenton this week.
“We was a gentleman – and a very gentle man,” said longtime friend Kitty Updike. They spent many hours sitting opposite a bridge table with their spouses at their sides. When she became a widow and he a widower the two would sit together at Vintage Club dinners.
“He was always so involved and he socialized with younger people so it was always nice to see younger people spending time with older people and vice versa. He was just always nice and very thoughtful with out people,” Updike said.
City Manager Charlie Funderburk said Mr. Fenton came up with the idea of having a Tega Cay Night at Knights games – an annual tradition that continued through the baseball’s team final season in Fort Mill this year. He also noted Mr. Fenton’s devotion to the fire department.
“I don’t know that there wasn’t a day I’d go by the fire department and wouldn’t see Bill either walking toward it or walking away from it,” Funderburk said. “He always a smile and would throw up a hand to wave. He was a nice guy who loved Tega Cay. Everything he did was because his fellow residents love Tega Cay as much as he did.”
It was through the fire department that Mr. Fenton met Diane Woods, who said he became like a father to her.
“Bill and I met because he was a member of the Tega Cay Fire Department and I’m a firefighter and he was always very supportive. I got to know he and his wife very well and I started calling him ‘Dad,’ Woods said.
“When he did something, he was passionate about it and enthusiastic and he did it to the fullest; There was no halfway with Bill. His life was built around people. He was giving and was honest as the day was long. He loved Tega Cay, loved his family, loved his three girls and his whole thing was about giving back to his community.”
Harry Barnes, president of the Vintage Club, said Mr. Fenton introduced him to the group.
“He sponsored my wife and I into the Vintage Club. He was just a heck a nice guy and a gentleman. First and foremost he loved his county and he put a lot of time and effort into whatever community he lived in. There were a lot of sad people at the [fire department] men’s breakfast this morning,” Barnes said.
William Frank Fenton was born in LaPorte, Ind. He was a son of the late Frank DeForest Fenton and Minnie Olson Fenton and is survived by three daughters, Deb of Pennsylvania; Sherry of Minnesota and Lisa and his grandson, Ian of West Virginia; a sister, Dorothy West of South Carolina. He was preceded in death by his wife, Doris.
A funeral for Mr. Fenton will be held at 2 P.M. Tuesday at Unity Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill followed by a celebration of life in the Hearth Room of the Philip T. Glennon Community Center in Tega Cay.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Burned Children, 3229 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229; or to Unity Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 1267, Fort Mill, SC 29716; or to the Tega Cay Fire Department, 7200 Tega Cay Drive, Tega Cay, SC 29708.