Andrew Dys

Hungry enjoy soup kitchen meal in memory of Rock Hill ‘angel on earth’

The men and women stood in a line and bowed their heads as lunch was readied for service Wednesday at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen. It’s the Rock Hill soup kitchen that was co-created by the late Brother David Boone more than 30 years before.

The line stretched out the door. Many were homeless.

Nobody asked a name of the hungry, or why they were hungry. The hunger was enough.

A prayer was said by a visiting minister, age 75, who towered at 5 feet, 3 inches tall. His name is the Rev. Willie T. “Dub” Massey. Massey, 56 years ago, spent a month in jail as part of the Friendship Nine black civil rights protesters in Rock Hill. They demanded service at a segregated lunch counter called McCrory’s in downtown Rock Hill. For the crime of being black and asking to eat with whites in 1961, Massey and the others were found guilty of trespassing and sentenced to 30 days hard labor on a chain gang.

Their protest remains one of the most important in American history.

David Boone, who died Nov. 6 at age 85, was the only white adviser to those teenaged black protesters demanding equality in 1961.

“Brother David Boone changed my life and this city and this country. He was an angel on earth,” Massey said.

The food was served. Meatloaf and cornbread and collards and more, with banana pudding. The food had been prepared and delivered by Selena Kelemen, owner of the Five & Dine restaurant on Main Street in Rock Hill, which sits on the site of the old McCrory’s protests. Kelemen has kept the lunch counter and stools with all the protesters’ names intact, including the names of Massey and Boone.

Kelemen volunteered to cater the daily meal at the soup kitchen in honor of Boone’s service. She donated the food, the labor and helped serve. She did it all while running a business.

“I did this because I felt I had to do something to honor Brother David,” Kelemen said. “This here is what he did for so long.”

Boone, a Catholic member of the Oratory who was church administrator at St. Mary Catholic Church, across Crawford Road from the soup kitchen, died under hospice care after a long cancer battle. He spent more than six decades serving the poor and needy, and fighting racism and inequality. He integrated Rock Hill’s recreation department. He ran a credit union for blacks when white banks denied service.

Denigrated and despised -- and even facing death threats during the civil rights era -- Boone never wavered in fighting segregation, said Massey.

Boone was likely the most important and courageous white person in South Carolina’s history of civil rights struggles, Massey said.

“Brother David gave courage to us all,” Massey said.

Volunteers work the soup kitchen six days a week, every week, and have for 32 years. Bev Carroll, who co-founded the kitchen with Boone, told the crowd and volunteers Wednesday that the legacy of Boone is every person in the room.

“Brother David’s work is with us always,” Carroll said.

The hungry ate and the really hungry had seconds. A client named Ken Blunt walked up to the line.

“I knew Brother David for 20 years, and I have prayed and talked to God, and I hope someday in my life, I can be half the man that Brother David was,” Blunt said.

After the meal finished, a truck pulled up. Inside was Willie McCleod, another of the Friendship Nine. McCleod had brought turkeys for the church to help feed the hungry during its holiday season. The Friendship Nine decided to donate food, rather than send flowers for Boone’s funeral on Saturday.

“Brother David taught all people that serving others is the greatest gift of all,” McCleod said. “A floral arrangement is nice. But food, giving, that’s what Brother David would have wanted.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, the soup kitchen closed. Carroll locked the door.

“Tomorrow we help again,” Carroll said.

Carroll and McCleod said goodbye to each other, and the legacy of Boone, a soup kitchen for the poorest in Rock Hill, prepared for the next wave of hungry people in need to be fed.

Services for Boone

A public vigil service for Brother David Boone is at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Mary Catholic Church, 902 Crawford Road, Rock Hill.

The funeral mass is at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.

Overflow parking is available at the city of Rock Hill Emmett Scott Recreation Center next to the church.

Donations in Boone’s name may be made to The Oratory, P.O. Box 11586, Rock Hill, SC 29731; or Interim Hospice, 154 Amendment Ave., suite 106, Rock Hill, SC 29732.

To see the historic lunch counter with Boone’s stool, visit Five & Dine restaurant, 135 Main St., Rock Hill.