A few months ago, Steve Burrell stopped at a Bojangles’. In the line, as small-town customers do in places such as Clover, he started talking to a stranger. The man heard Steve’s last name and asked if he was any relation to an older man in Clover named Dick Burrell.
“That’s my dad,” said Steve.
The stranger then recounted how, years ago when he was still new to the area, he had stopped to buy something at Boyd Tire & Appliance in downtown Clover. The store was a place straight out of “The Andy Griffith Show,” long before big chain stores arrived in places like Clover.
The man who helped him – part-owner, general manager, company president – put on no airs, he just asked, “How can I help you, friend?” The worker identified himself as Charles “Dick” Burrell, pronounced to all who knew him as “Burl.”
Dick Burrell offered the stranger a line of credit right there, told him to get what he needed, and stuck out his hand.
“That man all those years later remembered my father,” Steve Burrell said. “I was never more proud to have a dad like mine.”
For hundreds of families, Dick Burrell extended credit, allowed extra time to pay, helped the people who lost jobs when textile mills closed, crops didn’t come in, parents got sick, or times just got tough.
Burrell, 78, died Tuesday afternoon when he was moving a dead tree with his tractor and a large limb snapped back and hit him. Firefighters and police responded, but that tree was the first and only obstacle in his life that Burrell did not clear.
Burrell’s death has stunned the people of Clover who knew him – which is almost everybody. News of his death traveled by the mouths and tears and memories of real people who knew and loved the guy. People stopped at Boyd Tire & Appliance all day Wednesday and into Thursday to remember him.
“There is an old saying about someone never meeting a stranger, but Dick Burrell lived that,” said store owner Bill Boyd, who worked with Burrell for more than 30 years. “He spent his whole life making friends with strangers. He always had his hand out to shake and meet somebody – to help somebody.”
Burrell, Boyd said, “was one of the people who shows what it is to care about mankind.”
Burrell retired more than 15 years ago after 40 years at the store. But this husband, father and grandfather did not sit in front of a television with his feet up. He served on the boards of Clover Community Bank, York Electric Cooperative and several civic groups, and never took a penny.
For decades, he spent Wednesdays serving the poor at Clover Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church’s weekly community lunch for people who need a hot meal. An elder at the church, a moderator for the area Presbytery for many churches, he visited hundreds of people in their homes over the decades.
“My father really believed that seeing those people who were sick, shut-in, needing some company, was a job that God gave him,” his son said. “He never stopped doing it.”
The other job at church that Dick Burrell never stopped doing was greeter. An unofficial title, but on those steps leading up to the front doors of the church in downtown Clover, Burrell greeted every person through the door for decades. Then at the end of services, he was back there, wishing every person back out the door a happy day.
“If a person was a stranger when they came in the door,” said longtime church elder Jim Young, “they weren’t after Dick Burrell shook hands with them on the way in or the way out.”
His funeral is Friday at the church he loved, in the town he loved, not 100 yards from the store he loved.
As his son and friends said, every person through the door will be a friend, because Dick Burrell never met a stranger.