“Luther’s sister married my Uncle Ed,” Shirley explains at her kitchen table, taking a break from the sweltering heat of yard work, “they wanted us together.” An orchestrated meeting, the soon-to-be couple went to the store to buy ice cream for Luther’s mother, where Luther first asked Shirley on a date.
I am sitting at the table with her, peering out the window at the property Luther transformed into a family legacy—a tranquil pond, the white bridge that crosses it, their home. “And then what?” I ask, wondering how the two strangers went from the ice cream isle to the isle of a small church to say their vows. A smile crosses her face. “We kept dating… for two years.”
Shirley was just sixteen when she went on her first date with a twenty-one year-old Luther. She lived in small town Hilda, South Carolina, requiring Luther an hour drive with every visit. “We had been dating a year and he wanted me to marry him the summer after the 11th grade. We were in my living room and he said, ‘I’ve worn out two sets of tires on this car. If we don’t get married, I’m going to have to stop coming.’” The two became officially engaged the Christmas of Shirley’s junior year of high school and married shortly after her graduation.
Shirley describes Luther: “He loved a challenge. He was kind—I never heard anything bad about him. He was a family person and God was priority in our lives. People respected him like they respect Marty.”
Luther had an array of business experience before working for Service Master, ranging from delivering milk for Edisto Farms to taking over the business of Hilltop Grocery. It was not until working for SERVPRO, though, that Luther’s interest in business sparked, a spark that resulted in a flame introducing the East Coast to SERVPRO. As a matter of fact, a large number of the franchises in South Carolina resulted from Luther recruiting the men with whom he delivered milk.
Running a beauty shop out of their home, Shirley worked and played a supportive role in the SERVPRO story, joining Luther at meetings and conventions, sometimes even taking their children. “The first convention was in Atlanta; it was very small,” she recalls. The company was very much a part of family life.
“Luther was quiet to strangers, but he loved talking about business,” Shirley states, describing the life SERVPRO brought to Luther. “SERVPRO wanted him to do all he could.” And that is, in fact, exactly what he did.