Pineville is remembering one of its finest this month, and missing his presence in the town’s Christmas celebrations.
Don Boatwright, 70, of Pineville, died Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Carolinas Medical Center – Pineville following a brief illness. Born June 8, 1943, Boatwright was a former fire chief and lifetime member of the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department for 51 years. But even after retirement, Boatwright stayed active around town, and was a member of the James K. Polk Masonic Lodge #759 and Oasis Shrine – and a friend of just about every town leader and employee in Pineville.
“Every little town like this has got their characters, and Don was one of ours,” Les Gladden, town councilman and friend, said. “He always just filled in where needed – that was him. The retired life just wasn’t for him, and he was always looking for somebody to help.”
That was Don – driving to Raleigh to pick up new cars for the Pineville Police Department; helping Chip Hill, Pineville public works director, sweep streets and pick out the town’s annual Christmas tree; picking up trash at Lake Park; running errands for staff at town hall; and by far one of his favorites – playing the role of the official tree-lighter of the town’s annual Christmas tree. It’s a legacy he lived since moving to the town from Fort Mill, S.C., in the 1960s.
So it was no surprise to his wife, Libby Boatwright, when more than 400 people showed up to give their condolences at Don’s funeral. She’s received hundreds of cards expressing feelings about her late husband.
“I’m not surprised at all. When we first got married, we got a telephone in his name. The numbers spelled ‘help.’ That was given to him by the town because he was always helping someone,” Libby said. “He was a good guy. I shared him with lots of people, but that’s just the kind of person he was. I knew I was always first in Don’s heart, but depending on the day of the week, what was on his heart changed.”
Don and Libby would have celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary Dec. 2. Libby, a Pineville native, has been a member of the Pineville Fire Department for about 42 years, she said – that’s where they met. And until his last day, that’s where Don loved spending much of his time. Many mornings he would be out and about before the sun, picking on neighborhood kids at the bus stop, spending time with neighbors who needed a helping hand or stopping by the fire department that was so dear to his heart.
“Don was at the fire department when I first started, and I learned a lot from him,” Gladden, who later went on to serve the Charlotte Fire Department, said. “Even to this day, he loved doing the parts he could still do, turning up for events we held. He was always there to do what he could, and never stopped.”
The jokes and funny memories of Don, who was known for his sense of humor, are endless, Gladden laughed.
But it’s his giving heart and thoughtful spirit family and friends will miss the most. Don, described as a simple man by his wife, could be found helping others with no need for recognition or praise in return. The service he gave to the town came out of his love for the town, Libby said, and residents today could learn a lesson from the legacy he left behind.
“Love your neighbor and treat everyone as you want to be treated,” Libby said of the message Don would give to those looking to make Pineville a better place. “Because that’s what he did. He just loved this town and these people. And ‘take care of each other because that’s all we have in this world.’
“I just really loved him and I really miss him, and I never minded sharing him with everybody else.”
In addition to his wife, Don Boatwright was survived by son Kevin, and his wife, Debra; daughters Renee and Kay; brothers Jerry and Terry Boatwright; sisters Virginia Chapman, Faye Boatwright and Joyce Fultz; and eight grandchildren.
Services were held Nov. 4 at Stough Memorial Baptist Church with full fire department honors and masonic rites. Memorials can be made to Pineville Fire and Rescue, www.pinevillevfd.org.