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Fryar, master topiary artist, inspires CLC students

Posted: December 2, 2014 4:03 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2014 1:00 a.m.
Simone T. Owens/C-I

Pearl Fryar, a well-known, award-winning topiary artist from Bishopville, pauses during a talk with students at the Kershaw County School District’s Continuous Learning Center. Fryar told students not to become stigmatized by their circumstances and to “get as much education as you can, but never allow what you don’t have keep you from what you do have.”


Master Topiary Artist Pearl Fryar offered words of inspiration to students at the Continuous Learning Center (CLC) on Monday. Connie Frith -- a Lugoff Garden Club member and Kershaw County School District parenting specialist -- has known Fryar for several years and invited him to speak to students.

After hearing Fryar’s story of how he rose to the top, Frith knew sharing his story with students in the district would enlighten them and give them hope and drive for their futures.

“He has turned obstacles into opportunities,” Frith said.

The CLC is one of many schools at which Fryar has spent time encouraging students to find and pursue their passions. He said he especially aims to reach students who remind him of himself when he was in college -- students presumed to be average academically.

Fryar, of Bishopville, was born in North Carolina to sharecroppers. Fortunate enough to have his college education paid for by someone closely associated with his family, Fryar became the first African-American in his neighborhood to attend college. While grateful for and understanding the importance of having an education, Fryar’s dominate ability as a topiary artist spawned from pure talent -- a talent he would pursue later in his life and excel at without the help of an education.

“Get as much education as you can, but never allow what you don’t have keep you from what you do have,” Fryar told students.

Fryar also told students not to allow their background and where they come from to determine where they go in life.

“Don’t allow someone to tell you what you can and can’t do,” Fryar said. “Don’t become stigmatized.”

Fryar also revealed he was not always associated with the most positive crowd of friends and spoke of how it took some time -- years after college -- to recognize his true talent.

“It is not always about education; it’s about the skill you have and you have to nourish it,” Fryar said. “My creative ability never showed up on a test.”

Fryar spent some time in the Army, and 26 years working for a company in New York that eventually moved to Bishopville. He started crafting what is now the well-known and award-winning Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in the early 1980s.

During Fryar’s visit, CLC students also learned about a scholarship funded through a calendar whose proceeds Fryar awards to Lee County students enrolled in a junior, community or technical college.

Appearing to be moved by his message, students huddled around Fryar to have complimentary Pearl Fryar Topiary booklets autographed after he completed his presentation.

Seventh grader Brian Napper said Fryar’s message taught him to strive to be his best.

“What I got out of his message is, no matter where you come from, you always have potential and you can always get somewhere,” Napper said.

Students also presented Fryar with some gifts to show their appreciation for his visit.



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