Brother David Boone has been an advocate for Rock Hill's poor and minorities since he moved here from Kentucky in the late 1950s.
He ran a credit union for blacks out of St. Mary Catholic Church for 30 years. He supported integration in the 1960s and helped black Protestant clergy and the NAACP organize and carry out a boycott of segregated city buses, drawing much criticism from whites. He petitioned for poor families to get water and sewer services.
Now 78, Boone has spent more than half of his life standing up for others.
This weekend, people in the community stood up for him.
Boone retired as parish administrator from St. Mary in July, and on Sunday evening, he was recognized with a casual drop-in at the church.
At least 200 people trickled in and out of the church's fellowship hall throughout the evening, with every person approaching the center of a long table at the front, where Boone sat.
They embraced him, kissed his cheeks, shook his hand and offered thanks for everything he has done.
"It's a retirement party - but not a retirement," he joked.
Though Boone has retired officially after 52 years as parish administrator, he said he would be there today and whenever he is needed - on the board of directors of Carolina Community Actions, at the soup kitchen he helped begin, as treasurer and secretary for the local branch of the NAACP, and as a member of the Martin Luther King Task Force and the Christian Educators Association International.
And he said he's busy all the time in the garden at the Oratory.
"It makes me feel good," he said, looking around at all the friends who had come to see him. "I'm glad to see them."
For Marian Graham, 67, Rock Hill's landscape would have been very different had Boone not arrived at St. Mary in 1958, when she was in the eighth grade.
He began a young men's club and a young women's club at the church, taking them to basketball games and chaperoning church dances. He also began softball teams at the church.
"If you were black and you lived in the area of Crawford Road, Boyd Hill, you saw Brother David," she said. "He has his hand in everything that happened in this neighborhood."
He also has the respect of everyone in the area, she added.
"He molded so many young men and women and kept them from straying," she said.
Former city of Rock Hill Mayor Betty Jo Rhea remembers Boone coming to the area when he was just "in knickers and barefoot."
Throughout the years, the two have worked together, especially with the success of Cherry Park, which opened in 1985. Boone still serves on the city's parks, recreation and tourism commission.
"He's been a great supporter of everything in Rock Hill," she said. "He's kept Rock Hill on an even keel. He's just always been such a positive person. Everyone loves him."
That includes Sister Mary Ann Henagan of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity.
She first met Boone in 1999 when she was a visitor in the Rock Hill area. Though she and her two fellow sisters were only stationed in the area for a short period, she returned to St. Mary recently.
"Brother David is, without a doubt, a man of God," she said, "and a man that believes in truth and justice."
Even with his retirement, the youth today are feeling his influence. Siblings Quanisha, 12, and Quay Walton, 10, came to the church Sunday.
"Here you go, Brother David," Quanisha Walton said, as she brought him a plate of food.
Quanisha has been going to the church since she was baptized as a baby.
"He's a strong man," she said of Brother David. "He's helpful. He's funny."
"He's brave," her brother Quay added. "He's brave because of all the struggles he had, and he still came to church."