He was a quiet, laid-back, small-town, South Carolina boy. She was a New York City girl whose parents sent their children south to enjoy carefree summer days. They met, reconnected, and had a marriage that lasted 56 loving years.
Leroy Linwood Blackwell of Charlotte died of cancer on July 20, 2011, at age 81. He was a talented brick mason and graduated in 1947 from Manning (S.C.) Training School as its valedictorian.
“There was nothing to do, so my cousins and I would go walking,” Mildred Pinckney recalls of the summers she spent in Manning. “He was riding a bike when I met him, and every Sunday he’d just appear. We didn’t date — I was only 14 — but six or seven of us would go to a movie.”
Leroy enlisted in the Army in 1950, and on a 1952 leave in New York he paid a visit to Mildred. They wed in 1954 and were joined by son Dennis and daughters Cynthia and Gloria.
A good father
“He was always doing things for us,” his son Dennis said. “He took me lots of places with him. He called me ‘Little Leroy’ and made certain I did kid stuff. We were in the Soapbox Derby for three years running.
“He would have just come in from work and I met him at the door and asked if he’d play football with me. He put his stuff down and we ran around in the back yard in the dark, playing football,” Dennis remembered. That’s the kind of father he was. He took time to make you feel like you mattered. I felt very fortunate.”
Daughter Cynthia Alston said, “He stood beside his family and made us feel so wanted. I was so blessed to have that man in my life. My father was very calm, but we knew when he didn’t like something. He was so patient and would explain things to us.”
Leroy loved his church, Greater Bethel AME Church, where his services since 1953 included steward, trustee and choir. He was named Man of the Year in 1988-89, Father of the Year 1995 and was class leader for more than 50 years.
As class leader, he checked on sick and shut-ins, daughter Gloria Garrick said. “He was a true Christian and lived life the way you should. He truly loved the Lord. Mom said that he was there every time the church door opened. He was selfless and helped others so that they could help themselves.”
He shared love, knowledge
Leroy spread his love outside family and church and into his work. He was a master brick mason who had helped erect such Charlotte landmarks as the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in the 1970s, schools and much work in the Myers Park area. He shared his skills with men at the Rebound program at Charlotte Rescue Mission so that they could find jobs.
“They needed work to do so they could be released from Rebound,” Mildred said. “He would do anything to help people. He helped one addict who now owns a security business in California. He also helped people I did not know about – he did it in secret.”
Cynthia said, “I’m just so proud of my daddy and his relationship with God. If God loves me half as much as my daddy, I can make it.”
Gloria said, “He left a very rich legacy in kindness and was determined to do the right thing. My next job is to be as good as my father was.”
You may need to live 81 or more years to do that, Gloria.
The family requests that readers email any photos of Leroy Blackwell’s masonry work to: firstname.lastname@example.org for a family history.
Editor’s note: This is our series called Lives That Matter. Written by Charlotte writer Gerry Hostetler, this weekly feature will profile individuals, recently deceased, who had a positive impact on those around them.
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