In an era when a refrigerator that breaks means you buy a new refrigerator, one of Rock Hill’s links to the days when the fridge was kept running by a wizard with magic hands was laid to rest Friday.
There was a funeral for Michael Boulware Jr. on Friday at Ebenezer Baptist Church next to Piedmont Medical Center. Boulware, who ran Boulware Appliance Service for more than five decades, died at age 95 on Feb. 26, but his legacy lives on in York County.
He came from a time when work meant a life, and he literally built it with his own two hands. And he gave with those hands when community was not a political word but real.
For five decades, Boulware was the fix-it man for uncountable families. If someone had money to pay for the service, he was paid. If they didn’t, he fixed it anyway.
“If people needed it done my father would do it and tell them to pay him the next week, or the next month,” said one of his daughters, Lois Sanders. “If they couldn’t pay he still helped them.”
Sometimes he was paid with vegetables or whatever someone could afford to give.
On Warner Street on the southern edge of Rock Hill, Boulware built his house using recycled bricks from a building torn down at Winthrop University. Behind the house he built a shop for fixing appliances. It stands there to this day.
It’s where people came to have their stuff fixed. No one was turned away – ever.
He was a black business owner in a time when there were few. He did it without pause from the time of Eisenhower to the time of Obama. His skills were known to everybody and he turned down no one.
Boulware was born in the era of segregation when few black children were able to get much schooling. He had to start working on a farm at age 8 when he should have been in school in the third grade, said one of his grandchildren, Adrienne Heath. Yet Boulware learned to work on any machine and fix anything, and then joined the Army during World War II.
He came back to Rock Hill and for most of the next six decades did all he could to help people keep everything that they had running. His wife, Mary, was at his side for 67 years until she died a few years ago. She ran the business side of the appliance repair shop, and he did the work.
He worked days and nights and weekends.
He had six children and every one of them is a college graduate. He raised nieces and and a nephew and they all graduated from college paid for in part by those magical hands that could fix anything.
“I can remember him walking the floor, worrying about the tuition, but he did it somehow,” said Sanders, one of the daughters who graduated from then-Winthrop College during the early years after Winthrop integrated.
Michael Boulware is gone now, but people like him, quietly, made York County a better place for all.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065