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I am your Colletonian

Ron Shoupe. Photo by Christie Slocum

Some people spend most of their lives serving in the community as volunteers. When the idea to cover a community volunteer came about one person stood out in my mind. Ron Shoupe has served as a volunteer in Colleton County in almost every capacity. Unlike many of our previous Colletonians Shoupe was not born and raised here. He was born in Tampa, Florida where he spent his first thirteen years playing with his brothers in Six Mile Creek, a time he remembers fondly.

At the age of thirteen, his father decided he wanted to open a plumbing business in a small town. Shoupe explained he had two aunts who lived in Walterboro and his father felt this would be a good place to relocate to. He was not thrilled with his father’s decision. He had started working in Florida at the ripe old age of 11 as an on floor manager at a skating rink. He was in a Friday night bowling league and enjoyed fishing around Tampa. “Walterboro did not have much in the sixties. There was Hiers Drive-In and Cook Theatre was downtown but other than that there was not too much to do,” said Shoupe. It took a year or so before he felt comfortable and started making friends in Walterboro but once he did he did not mind living here.

He attended and graduated from Walterboro High. After graduation he gained employment with Asten-Hill, a local manufacturer. In 1969, Shoupe decided to join the Marine Corp. He enlisted and went to boot camp at Parris Island. “I know I am going to Heaven, because I have already been to Hell,” said Shoupe as he reminisced on his experiences while at Parris Island. It was during this time that he started feeling a lump in his throat. It was determined he had thyroid cancer and he spent the next 5 weeks in the Naval Hospital in Beaufort. They discharged him and he returned to Walterboro, later to have his Thyroid removed and to become cancer free.

After returning to Colleton County Shoupe became employed with South Carolina Electric and Gas where he stayed employed for the next ten years in operations at the Canadys plant. It was during this time he met his wife. He recalls she and two other girls were driving round and round Hiers Drive-In on a Sunday night. He finally said “Park that thing. You are making me dizzy.” He had no idea at the time he was talking to his future wife, Billie. The couple has now been married for 43 years and has two children, Robin Crosby and Casey Shoupe. They also have two grandchildren and one on the way. He started his volunteer work because of his children. He coached his son’s baseball teams until his son was in high school. He and his wife also served on the Band of Blue Booster Club for seven years and even went with the band to California so they could perform at the Rose Bowl. “We raised funds for a year and a half to go on that trip,” said Shoupe. He recalls helping build all of the props for the Band of Blue and making sure the field was set up so the band could compete in their Saturday competitions.

After leaving SCE&G, Shoupe starting working with his father in his plumbing business which had become the local Roto-Rooter. He became a Master Plumber and started working with Mechanical Contractors in the Charleston area.

He is responsible for the plumbing at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. “It is amazing how much stuff is behind the scenes at the Aquarium,” said Shoupe. He explained each exhibit has its own system and he was in charge of making sure they were installed correctly. After working in plumbing for 18 years, Shoupe decided to get a job a little closer to home. He landed the job as Director of Facilities Management. One of his biggest accomplishments while in this position was the renovation of the Colleton County Court House.

On top of a full employment career and helping with his two children, Shoupe gave many long hours to Colleton County as a volunteer fireman. His wife recalls that his boots stayed by the bed in case a call came in during the night. For 12 years he served as the Assistant Chief of the Colleton Rural Fire Department. In 1971 he helped start the Colleton County Rescue Squad. “Everybody gets tight in a volunteer organization mainly because you depend on each other so much. Times really have changed in the last 30 to 40 years as far as Fire and Rescue go”, said Shoupe. He also helped with the Rice Festival Parade for 25 years. The festival is still very special to him and his wife as she will be helping some behind the scenes this year.

His most recent volunteer job has been his favorite. Shoupe spent many hours serving as a Reserve Officer for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department. He explained to me the process of becoming a Reserve Officer and the amount of time one spends with an employed officer before they are allowed out on their own. Many of us have seen him working the road or attending local high school football games and working crowd control. “Walterboro has come a long way and we still have a ways to go. Andy Strickland has been doing a wonderful job and it seems the County and City are really starting to work well together. It’s good to have younger people in office who don’t mind being proactive,” said Shoupe.

As much respect as Shoupe has for Sheriff Strickland it seems Strickland has just the same if not more for Shoupe. “I have known Ron Shoupe for most of my life. Playing sports as a child Mr. Ron coached me in Little League baseball. He was a standup guy then and has remained one as the years went by. He has been behind the scenes for most of his career and has had a huge impact in the betterment of Colleton County. In my position, I am proud to watch a man of his character be part of an organization that I now oversee,” said Sheriff Strickland.

Although Shoupe beat cancer 40 years ago I am sorry to say he began fighting a new battle with the disease four and a half years ago. When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer he was told it was already stage 4. He has taken chemo treatments and up until recently the treatments had been helping. Shoupe retired from his job on December 15, 2014, one day after turning 65 years old. Now he is enjoying his days best with his Boykin Spaniel named Dixie and spending as much time with his family as possible. He clings to his faith and knows the future is in God’s hands but says he is having some good days and hopes he will still be well enough when the weather warms up to go out in his boat. He plans on attending Relay for Life in May and hopes the public will come out in support of him and so many others in the community who are fighting the battle. Relay for Life will be held on Friday May 15, 2015 from 4 pm to 2 am at the Colleton County Middle School track.

 

Christie Slocum (190 Posts)