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City honors former mayor, wife with bench

Posted: December 18, 2017 5:03 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Former Camden Mayor Tony Scully and his wife, Joy Claussen Scully, sit on a Leaders Legacy bench dedicated in their honor Thursday afternoon in Kirkwood Common. The Scullys moved to Camden in 2005 and quickly became immersed in the arts community and various civic organizations. Tony Scully successfully ran for mayor in 2012, serving for one term.

At least 100 people filled the lower end of Kirkwood Common near the park’s pond on Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to former Camden Mayor Tony Scully and his wife, Joy Claussen Scully.

City Manager Mel Pearson kicked off the celebration by saying that he was privileged to have experienced not only the good times while working with Mayor Scully, but to see the phases he went through in being a candidate, first-time mayor and settling into the mayor’s chair.

“Joy’s smiling over there; she knows what I’m about to say,” Pearson quipped. “I know that when you came into city hall, you were leaving campaign activity and campaign promises -- we see some federal elected officials going through that right now -- yours was not as nearly disruptive, Tony, as what we see in D.C., and it was a pleasure. You came to us as mayor wondering what this mayor’s position is all about. ‘What do I do? What am I supposed to do?’ Shortly after that, you entered another phase and it was, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into here?’ But then you became an advisor, an ambassador that that position is supposed to be. And you worked hard to keep the councils that you worked with and the staff out of trouble, because we tend to get into trouble sometimes. And you served your constituents very well … all of your constituents. There were no special groups that you paid attention to more than you did others.”

Councilwoman Deborah Davis said it was a “joy” when the Scullys came into her life.

“I was the virgin in the group when it came to politics and he really did befriend me and not only me, as Mr. Pearson said, but so many others,” Davis said. “And, whenever you spoke with Joy or Tony and speak (with them) now, you’re the only one in the room. His service and dedication, of loyalty, of passion, of compassion, of admiration, of love that they both found in Camden has made such an impact on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of us. His sensitivity to your feelings and your desires and wants and needs and concerns are forever felt because many of us council members, we were able to talk to him in private. And what he said to you is what he meant. He would talk about his concerns of your desires and wants and needs, and he would stay up and worry about and ponder and pray and think about it and come back and throw it out: ‘This is what I’m thinking. What do you think?’”

Davis said Tony Scully would do everything he could to make a difference.

“And not to mention you,” she said to those gathered. “Look at this crowd. As far as I’ve been with city council, this is the largest we’ve ever had…. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Sarah Reed, who, along with her husband, Albert, and Bill and Kate Denton, nominated the Scullys for the Legacy bench honor, said she first met Joy Scully when she came to Camden to perform at an April 2005 Carolina Cup gala.

“She was here four days and she left Camden feeling as though she had found a home for retirement,” Reed said. “Three months (and) 21 days later, she and her husband, Tony, moved from Los Angeles, lock, stock and barrel, to Camden to start their retirement -- to enjoy the slower pace of a Southern town.”

Reed said she was finishing up a seven-year term on the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County’s board of directors and was tasked with finding some “passionate, energetic people” who had been involved in the arts.

“Voilá,” she said. “So, I talked to Joy and Tony and they certainly seemed to have the passion. I could not have been happier meeting this fascinating couple, both of whom had had careers in the entertainment business. Joy, star of stage and screen and television; Tony, behind the cameras, writing, producing, directing as well as running a foundation dealing with multi-cultural/generational issues.”

Reed said she told the Scullys that if they wanted to get to know Camden and its people, “Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.” She asked the Scullys to become involved with the FAC. Joy Scully would go on to serve on the board for seven years and recently returned to it. Both have performed on the FAC’s stage, helped fundraise, taken on leadership responsibilities and provided audiences with what Reed called “hours of entertainment pleasure.”

“Joy and Tony have gone to work in every aspect of Camden’s vital life: the arts, education, the Community Medical Clinic, politics, the Boys & Girls Club, the OrganWise Guys program, I could go on and on,” she said. “They have collaborated and worked with others to bring new programs and ideas to Kershaw County. They indeed found a home in Camden and Camden gained the multi-talented, highly skilled, beloved Scullys.”

Marty Daniels, a close friend of the Scullys, called the Leaders Legacy bench program Camden’s “21st century history.”

“In the years ahead, when folk make their way to these restful places and read these plaques, I hope that they will know where to find the story about each honoree who contributed to Camden life,” Daniels said.

She went on to say that she believed the Scullys’ bench should be called the “Inspiration Bench” to dedicate what she said was “their gift to us.”

“They inspire us to be more, to do more, to give more of ourselves,” Daniels said. “They have done so much for us, not seeking credit for themselves, but instead with a vision about building up others and inspiring us to join in for civic, socials, political, cultural life infused with imagination often through art, theatre and music, and always encouraging that everyone deserves to feel valued and included.”

Daniels said Tony and Joy Scully lead “lives of inspiration” who define the true meaning of “movers and shakers.”

“We thought we knew the meaning of the phrase … but we were mistaken if we heard it used to describe the powerful in business. No; where it comes from and what it means is the gift of inspiration from artists as leaders living among us,” she said, going on to quote from the 1873 poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaugnessey: “We are the music makers/And we are the dreamers of dreams…/The movers and shakers/Of the world forever, it seems.”

The idea, Daniels said, is -- through literature and theater -- “shaking the foundation of conventional thinking through the strength of imagination.”

Joy Scully, she said, performed a “stunning” one-woman show that her husband produced at the FAC, and Tony Scully went on to compete in the FAC’s local “Dancing with the Stars” event.

“And, together, they starred in Broadway’s Love Letters, which brought us to our feet cheering for their sensitive portrayal of two children who loved and lived to encounter some of the hardest human experiences,” Daniels said. “Rarely are these two without a delicious sense of irony -- who can forget Tony looking too perfectly identical to a disheveled Albert Einstein complete with fright wig?”

According to Daniels, Tony Scully became mayor with “desire in his heart to heal divisions and inspire inclusiveness.”

“As our mayor, he inspired us to be better than we are, and to listen with respect,” she said. “He did it by giving credit -- not taking credit -- giving credit, naming and celebrating people who contribute and collaborate. He was a role model for anyone in government (and) saw himself as a public servant with no view of a political career except as a volunteer.”

Daniels said Tony Scully as mayor inspired “much needed teamwork” among elected leaders and good citizens, including Camden City Council, Kershaw County Council, other cities, businesses, non-profits and individual volunteers. She said during his tenure, the city saw Rhame City Arena restored, a new animal shelter dedicated, the Boys & Girls Club’s Jackson Teen Center launched, brought the mini-Olympics to Camden with current Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford, completion of the city’s new wastewater treatment plant, new development at the former Boylan-Haven-Mather School property, beginning of the tennis court complex, expansion of Central Carolina Technical College and -- with groundbreaking on Friday -- the new Applied Technology Education Campus.

“In each of these accomplishments, many people are involved and deserve credit. Tony would be the first one to say so,” Daniels said. “But, as I hear it -- in Tony’s voice -- in council chambers, in the news, with sincerity, a loving heart and elegant writing, he invited us to be part of a greater whole than our own needs and ambitions. In his continuing Chronicle-Independent columns, Tony generously shines the spotlight on those who deserve to be thanked for making our hometown a better place -- an in so doing, he holds high the lamp to inspire us.

“I think it was Vivian Metze who said of Tony and Joy, ‘They are just the best Mr. and Mrs. Mayor.’”

After giving Daniels a hug, Tony Scully spoke briefly.

“When we moved here 12 years ago, we said to one another in the car, we knew we were coming home,” he said. “That’s what we did -- we came home, to you. We have never been outsiders here, and we have never had that experience anywhere else.”

The former mayor said the best thing council did during his term was hiring Pearson as city manager, who, he said, hired “the most extraordinary group” of people to serve on city staff, singling out Assistant City Manager Caitlyn Young, Urban Forester Liz Gilland and Public Works Director Tom Couch.

“The reason we live here when we could be living... there’s 25 people in our zip code, and you’re all angels and saints, and there’s probably five who need to keep taking their meds because you hear these very disgruntled people about signs and tree limbs and things. But, there are angels and saints among us. If it were merely a matter of having every store front filled and flowers hanging from every lamppost -- and believe me, everybody on staff tries to do their very best -- if it were just that, we would be, as the prophet said, ‘clanging brass, sounding brass.’ There is love here and it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever lived and it’s something I hope that we not take for granted. That’s why we live here and that’s what makes Camden extraordinary, as beautiful as it can be, as it is today.

“So, I’m just saying let us, please, never forget that and never take that for granted and never sum up who we are in terms of just how things look. There is substance beyond the surface.”

Tony Scully concluded by calling his wife a “steadfast beacon of life” and -- as Daniels predicted -- thanking everyone else for what they have done.

(This online version of this story has been modified to correctly replace the word "defend" with "befriend" in the first sentence of Camden City Councilwoman Deborah Davis' quote at the fifth paragraph.)

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