When mourners say someone who passes away has left a legacy, they usually mean an intangible one. That isn’t the case with Rebecca Dalton, who left behind a physical legacy of buildings, property and other items when she died Friday.
“When you walk into the library, the gallery is the first area you go into,” said Clinton College President Elaine Copeland, referring to the Dalton Gallery on the Rock Hill campus. “And in the gallery, there’s a plaque on display for the Harold and Rebecca Dalton Gallery.”
The gallery was just one marker Rebecca Hurt Hardaway Dalton – or just “Becca” to her friends and family – left in her 87 years, usually alongside Harry, her husband of 65 years.
Her interests extended across the arts and education, and she found ways to give back in whatever form she could. Besides the Dalton Gallery, the Daltons provided funding for the main gallery of the Rock Hill Center for the Arts, for which they were awarded the annual Julia H. Post Cultural Arts Award by the city of Rock Hill.
“While many wealthy people make monetary contributions to charitable organizations, Becca devoted her time and talent to make a lasting difference in our community,” said Debra Heintz, executive director of the Arts Council of York County, adding that Dalton’s legacy went beyond the physical in the arts community.
“Becca mentored many younger women, teaching them how to have an effective voice,” Heintz said. “What a tribute to her character and what a legacy she leaves behind.”
Mary Lynn Norton knew Dalton from the Arts Council and the Museum of York County, where Dalton volunteered for years, conducting tours for visitors and working in the museum store.
“Becca’s smile and genuine nature could positively light up a room,” Norton said. “If you were fortunate enough to have received one of her many special cards, whether it be for a birthday, anniversary, or a thank you note, it was one you would always tuck away in a special place to hold on to the sentiment.”
As a friend and supporter, “She had a gift for saying just the right thing,” Norton said.
Joann McMaster, a fellow worshiper at St. John’s United Methodist Church, knew Dalton from the time they both married and moved to Rock Hill in 1950. Dalton grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Women’s College in Greensboro, now the co-ed University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
McMaster knew Dalton from her work with the St. John’s Women’s Society, among her many other projects in and outside of church.
“Her work at St. John’s spread through the community; the Garden Club, the Red Cross,” McMaster said. “She always used to carry around a tote bag with information on whatever her latest project was.
“She was always extremely capable and willing to lend a hand wherever the need occured.” she said.
Dalton’s desire to leave her mark extended to the landscape itself. The Daltons helped preserve two large tracts of land from development – the couple purchased 110 acres at the top of Ferguson Mountain (Nanny’s Mountain) and sold the land at a discount to York County to be preserved. The Daltons later purchased another large tract along the Broad River and sold the property to York County Forever.
As a longtime member of the Sierra Club – she distributed the newsletter for the Henry Knob chapter – Dalton’s commitment to the environment and her support for Winthrop University led the school to rename its life sciences building, with its laboratories for the biology and human nutrition departments, to Dalton Hall in 2010.
“She was always more concerned about others than about herself, especially when it came to the physical world,” said Winthrop Provost Debra Boyd.
The Daltons helped raise money in Winthrop’s capital campaigns, funding a chair for environmental sciences and studies and establishing a scholarship fund. In 2006, the couple received the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Medal of Honor in the Arts.
“She’s been engaged with Winthrop from the earliest I can remember, and I’m in my 32nd year here,” Boyd said.
Boyd said Dalton’s engagement with the school went beyond the monetary. She wanted “to help people become the best versions of themselves.”
Copeland agrees, citing Dalton’s frequent visits to the gallery that bears her name, and the Daltons’ other contributions to Clinton totaling thousands of dollars.
“She was really impressed with what a small institution can do with that donation,” Copeland said. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the support.”
The sincerity of Dalton’s interactions with everyone she came across is what most impressed Boyd, who said she could make anyone feel like they were the only person in the room with her. She also expressed her appreciation for the contributions of both Dalton and her husband.
“They were a dynamic pair,” she said. “Her legacy will live on.”
Dalton is survived by her husband and their four children.
Greene Funeral Home Northwest Chapel is assisting the family.