UNION — Wednesday’s annual Union County Cornerstone Awards ceremony included words of family and friends, fellowship, freedom, foundation, and the future.
Just inside the main entrance of the Union County Courthouse, a wall reads, “Cornerstone Wall: Building Our Future on Foundations from our Past…” The wall currently features six plaques — one for each recipient of the annual Cornerstone Award — including a photo and biography of contributions to the community.
The Union County Cornerstone Award began in 2011 under the direction of County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair. As of Nov. 13, 2013, six individuals have been recognized for making a difference in Union County. These individuals are referred to as “cornerstones” based on two definitions — “the first stone laid in a new building on the foundation” and “a vital person.” These individuals started a foundation for the community’s future, and they are vital to the community.
Past honorees have included Mrs. Dora T. Martin-Jennings, Col. William C. Whitener, Mrs. Jane G. Arthur, and Dr. Paul K. Switzer. This year’s honorees are the Rev. A.L. Brackett and Mrs. Barbara Rippy.
A ceremony was held Wednesday at Union County Courthouse to honor Brackett and Rippy. The event began with a welcome from Sinclair, an invocation from the Rev. David Bauknight, and the National Anthem, which was played on violin by 10th-grader Gino Ferguson.
“When I see students like tenth-grader Gino Ferguson, it makes me feel comfortable about our future,” Sinclair said. “I think we have a good, strong future.”
Ferguson is the grandson of Carlisle Mayor Mary Ferguson-Glenn.
Rev. A.L. Brackett
Programs for Wednesday’s event labeled Brackett “The Good Shepherd,” and included Psalm 37:1-4:
“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
The program also stated that Brackett has served as Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Gaffney and St. Paul Baptist Church in Union for over 40 years and continues his service to his congregations, his community, and to the Lord. His presence in Union has reached far beyond church walls and into our community and schools to create safe pastures. Brackett has served on numerous committees in support and improvement of Union County Schools. He has served on the Higher Education Commission in support of local college education for eleven years. In addition to safer pastures for students, Brackett has been involved in providing safe pastures for the elderly in Union. He is always a voice of reason as we all work for our community to be a safe pasture through social and educational growth. Brackett is recognized as a cornerstone of our safe pasture community.
The Rev. Brackett was presented with his award by the Rev. Malachi Duncan.
“I’m the happiest and proudest person in Union County to have this privilege to present to (Brackett) the annual Union County Cornerstone Award,” Duncan said, adding that he has known Brackett for a number of years and that Brackett’s love and devotion for the world and the cause of Christ are great.
Duncan recited Psalms 37:23-24:
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.”
Duncan said he could remember seeing the courthouse 75 years ago, when he was not allowed to come in the front door. He said he never thought he would see an African-American minister on the walls of the courthouse. Duncan then spoke directly to Brackett.
“Our children and our grandchildren will look at this and say the officials of Union County were able to do this,” Duncan said. “You are not only a preacher, but you are a pastor. You are not only a pastor, but you are a servant.”
Brackett also spoke, mentioning that he was grateful to Union County, and although he is not a native, he has been in Union long enough to feel like a native as his children grew up and went to school in Union.
“Whatever contribution I’ve made to this county, I’ve made because I love the county and I love the people,” Brackett said.
Mrs. Barbara Rippy
Programs for Wednesday’s event labeled Rippy “The Ambassador,” and included Matthew 5:15:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven.”
The program also stated Rippy, while not from Union, is — without question — for Union. Mrs. Rippy’s heart has been and always will be among the citizens of Union, and she has earned a place in their hearts. Through her community effort and involvement, Rippy has made Union a better place to live during the 34 years that she and her late husband, Dr. Bobby Rippy, owned and operated Smith’s Drug Store. The caring service she provided her customers did not end after retirement. She has continued to support countless civic organizations and good causes, including but not limited to Union Civitan Club, Relay for Life, The American Cancer Society, Dixie Youth and Miracle League Baseball, the Kudzu Festival, USC Union, and her church, Grace United Methodist.
Rippy was ill and could not attend Wednesday’s event, and Sinclair announced there would be a special event held later, when her health improves. Rippy’s award was presented by David “Tubo” Owens.
Owens quoted Rippy with what he called the two most profound statements he had ever heard her make. The first was, “In order for things to be better in Union, we must work together.” The second was, “If you can buy here, please do it.”
“If she believes in you, she will go with you 100 percent,” Owens said, adding that he can only imagine the number of children whose lives were positively affected by Dr. and Mrs. Rippy.
Owens said he can remember seeing the couple pull up on Main Street at 2 a.m. to go into the drug store to get children pain medicine or Tylenol. He said he had seen them do the same thing on Sundays after church. He laughed as he recalled the day she chased a child down the street after he had shoplifted a candy bar.
“You are a cornerstone in this county, and I’m proud to be your friend, Barbara,” Owens said.
Although she was unable to attend the event, Sinclair called Rippy and put her on speaker phone, allowing her to address those in attendance. Rippy joked about her habit of being late, and she said she loves the people of Union County and is thankful for everything they have done for her and her late husband. She also offered words of advice:
“Never down where you live; always lift it up,” Rippy said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do for Union County.”