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Family remembers Charles McGuirt's love for children

Posted: November 27, 2011 2:29 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Charles McGuirt

Charles McQuirt took great pride in being from Camden. He was born and raised in Kershaw County and after earning both a B.A. and M.S. from Georgia Tech School of Aerospace Engineering and later a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering at Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics, Astronautics and Engineering Sciences, he returned to his home town.

“He could have gone into the space industry and lived in Florida or California but he wanted to come back here,” his son, Davis McGuirt said.

McGuirt passed away Nov. 23 in his home after a battle with cancer.

Instead of participating in space projects, in 1968 Charles opted to return to his roots and join the family business, J.B. McGuirt and Sons, a family real estate and construction business.

“His momma and daddy had been praying for years that he would come back to Camden,” his wife of 49 years, Emily McGuirt, said. “His daddy was so proud when he was able to make it ‘J.B. McGuirt and Sons’ with an ‘s’.”

He also believed, she added, that Camden was the best place to start a family and raise children.

“He said he could build houses just as well as he could airplanes,” Mrs. McGuirt said. “This is exactly where he wanted to be.”

He was known around Camden as being passionate about both his family and the public school system.

“He believed very strongly in the local school system,” Davis McGuirt said, whose father served four terms on the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees and was a 1956 graduate of Camden High School.

McGuirt also took a personal interest in mentoring students.

“One of the most important things that he had a knack for was helping children,” McGuirt’s brother, Jim McGuirt, said. “He had his own children, but he also liked to see other children do well. He would take youngsters into his construction business … he’d take youngsters in there and teach them to learn a trade. Today, there are two or three of them that are in their own private businesses because of him.”

Jim McGuirt also talked about the hunting trips his brother loved to take.

“He liked to carry youngsters on his hunting trips when their fathers may not be able to take them,” Jim McGuirt said. “Many of the kids in this town harvested their first deer with Charles. They never would have had that opportunity otherwise.

“He would help these kids in a subtle way, where they wouldn’t feel like there was a supervisor over them. They would just think that ‘hey, we’re having a good time.’”

That same philosophy carried through the “cousin camp” McGuirt and his wife planned for all their own grandchildren each year. Each grandchild would receive a packet containing menus for all meals, camp rules, treasure hunt clues and a script for a movie they would produce during camp before arriving at the McGuirts’ front door. The rules included no TV and no turning on the computer.

 “The grandchildren loved it,” Mrs. McGuirt said. “Charles had a way of relating to children of different ages. Charles was good with children of every age.”

Mrs. McGuirt, a retired teacher, said he was a big help to her while she taught first grade in Camden.

“The children loved the dinosaur unit,” she said. “For several years straight he would build a different dinosaur for us to use. The children loved it. It was a wonderful motivator…I would say ‘as soon as you’re done with your math, we’ll work on the dinosaur.’ We would have a vote on what color to paint it. I always told them, ‘you can make it any color you want’ -- nobody ever saw one of these creatures -- ‘we’ll do it any color you want to do it.’”

The best dinosaur was the T-Rex, she said.

“Charles got a little motor for it … actually out of a pair of sunglasses advertised at the drug store.” Mrs. McGuirt said. “Charles turned the motor sideways and we passed around a recorder and all the first graders growled into it. Then he fixed it so when you walked up to the dinosaur -- which was about 7 or 8 feet tall, it was a huge thing -- he would open his mouth and growl at you! It was fantastic!”

The same T-Rex made a few appearances on Camden front porches when the story of the “Lizard Man” broke in the late 80s.

“It made its way around town because they thought it looked like a big lizard,” Mrs. McGuirt said.

McGuirt played an active role in the Camden community, including serving as Kiwanis Club president, a member of Masonic Lodge No. 29 and an active member and chairman for the Board of Trustees of Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church.

“He was a long-time member of the church and more of a quiet doer,” Davis McGuirt said. “He did a lot of things in the background and he didn’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight.”

He also liked bringing people together over a good meal.

“Dad liked to use food for hospitality,” Davis McGuirt said. “He had a supper club that would meet every other Tuesdays for a long time.”

McGuirt also wrote and published two books about growing up in rural South Carolina – “Alice the Elephant” and “Earle the Squirrel” and was a regular columnist for the Chronicle-Independent.

“He was very proud to be from this community,” Davis McGuirt said.

In addition to Emily, Jim and Davis McGuirt, survivors include son, John Kelly McGuirt; daughter, Joan McGuirt Khan; and nine grandchildren, Davy Grace McGuirt, Elliott Isaac McGuirt, Amanda Kay McGuirt, Robert William McGuirt, Savannah Ruth McGuirt, Emily June McGuirt, Ryan Parker Khan, Joseph Wasil Khan and Evelyn Joan Khan. He is also survived by a sister, Elizabeth Ann McGuirt Boone.

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