LOUISBURG - The Reverend Sidney Earl Stafford died on July 3, 2015 from complications of Parkinson's Disease. He was the former Chaplain and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Louisburg College and a United Methodist minister.
Born January 13, 1934 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Sidney was the tenth child of Charles Henry and Laura Holloway Stafford. At the age of five months, his mother died, and he was given to be raised by his maternal grandparents, William Mercer and Annie Smith Holloway, who made sure he was in attendance every Sunday at Broad Street Methodist Church. Their loving care and the influence of that church led him to a lifetime of dedicated service to the Church, to higher education, and to the communities in which he lived.
Sidney excelled at football at Hattiesburg High School and was a member of the basketball team that won a state championship in 1952. After graduating from high school, and at only 18 years of age, he began his ministry as pastor of Arnoldline Methodist Church. He served in the US Army from 1953-1956 and spent most of his enlistment on the island of Okinawa, It was that Army experience that he credited for opening his eyes and mind to a larger world, and his attitudes and understanding of his role in society began to change. He became a champion of civil rights and worked diligently to improve race relations in all areas of his influence.
When he returned to Hattiesburg, he was ready for the challenge of an education, and he enrolled at Mississippi Southern College. While there, he also served as pastor of Baxterville Methodist Church. He earned his BA degree from Southern in 1958. Later (1962) he earned a MDiv from Duke University and in 1972 completed the requirements for a MA in Philosophy from UNC Chapel Hill.
While at Duke, Sidney became a member of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as pastor and loved the people of the Walnut Grove and Carr United Methodist Churches in Orange County, NC. In 1963, he was appointed to Amity United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, where he worked hard to help the church grow and plan for a permanent church building. While at Amity he married and began a family.
Sidney loved the pastoral ministry and appreciated the special relationships he developed among those in his church congregations, but he especially enjoyed the occasions when he was able to work with young people and began to feel called to work with them full time.
In 1967 he began his career in education at Louisburg College. He was Chaplain and Dean of Religious Life for thirty-four years and Professor of Religion and Philosophy for forty years, retiring from all duties in 2008. While at College, he served many roles and was a recipient of the Bessie Arrington Gupton Award for Outstanding and Extraordinary Service. During the 1980's, he appreciated the opportunity to teach a course in Methodist Theology at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in Wake Forest.
While devoting most of his time to his teaching duties, Sidney also pastored a number of area churches on an interim or part-time basis, but he devoted the greatest service to two churches in the Franklinton area: He served Ebenezer UMC at Mitchner's Crossroads and Wesley Chapel UMC at Pokomoke for eighteen years.
Always civic-minded and involved in the community, Sidney was involved with Cub Scouts, the PTA, and school booster clubs, and served on a number of boards and agencies in Franklin County. He taught Sunday School and was active in the day camp program sponsored by Louisburg United Methodist Church. He was a charter member of the Franklin County Civitan Club and in 1976 received their award for Humanitarian of the Year. With the Louisburg College Christian Life Council, he sponsored an annual Christmas Party for Children, Red Cross Bloodmobile visits, and several Rock-a-Thons for the Easter Seals Society of North Carolina. In 1976, he was given the Easter Seals Volunteer of the Year award.
In 1980, Sidney received from Governor Jim Hunt the Governor's Volunteer Award. In 1982, he was named Franklin County Citizen of the Year by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Because he loved people and was always welcoming, WYRN radio asked him to represent the County as Franklin County's namesake Benjamin Franklin at the annual Whistler's Conventions. He continued as Ben Franklin for twenty-five years, finally hanging up that costume in 1999.
As many in Louisburg and Franklin County may remember, Sidney rose early each weekday morning for many years to co-host the Open-Line talk show with Clay McBride and others on local radio station WYRN. That opportunity to talk and tell his stories gave him much joy. Others may remember his years as manager of Town and County Recreation Center and may appreciate his role in helping to organize the first Town and County Swim Team.
In 1985, encouraged by some town leaders, Sidney decided to seek a seat on the Louisburg Town Council. He was elected and he went on to serve the town for a total of four terms. From this position, he became active in the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments, and in 2002 was named Outstanding Region K Board Member.
An article in The Franklin Times in 2001 called Sidney Stafford "Louisburg's Modern-Day Renaissance Man," an appellation which reflected his multiple talents, his many years of service, and his wide-spread influence in the town of Louisburg, in Franklin County, and at Louisburg College. That same year he was honored at an event on the Louisburg College campus sponsored by both College and Town. "Sid Stafford Day" was a culminating event in recognition of his life and his variety of service to the community he had chosen to live in. A painting called "Remembrance" hangs now in the Benson Chapel on the Louisburg College campus in remembrance of his life and work.
Sidney Stafford was a man of great intelligence, generosity, and wit. He was a theologian who thought deeply but who always had a joke or funny story to share. He loved everyone, but he especially loved his family and his children. He was a good husband and a superior father whose example will extend into future generations. He was always a child at heart, and he spent many hours entertaining not only his own children but many in the neighborhood as well. He will be long remembered by those who knew him as their role-model, their teacher, their mentor, their preacher, and their friend.
He is survived by his wife of fifty years, Grace Wright Stafford; sons Sidney Earl Stafford, Jr. (Lori) of Hillsborough, NC; Carl Mercer Stafford (Melissa) of Sharon, MA; Charles Kenneth Stafford (Carrie) of Atlanta, GA; and daughter Laura Suzanne Stafford of Greensboro, NC. He is also survived by ten grandchildren: Taylor, Colin, Ben, Ethan, Aaron, John Nicotera, Jackson and Ella Stafford, and Ollie and Fern Murray. He has one surviving sister, Dorothy Stafford McRaney of Mobile, AL.
Visitation will be Monday, July 6 from 7 to 8:30 at Strickland Funeral Home. Funeral will be at Louisburg United Methodist Church at 11 AM on Tuesday followed by a private burial at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Cemetery at 2:30 PM. Memorials may be made to Louisburg College or to the ZOE Ministry at Louisburg United Methodist Church.
Arrangements are by Strickland Funeral Home & Crematory, Louisburg, www.stricklandfuneralhome.net.