Editorial: Dr. Joe
John Wayne was born in 1907. He died in 1979 at the age of 72. When the Duke died, Dr. Joe Gettys, who was also born in 1907, was still in his prime and would live another 37 years. Dr. Joe, a Presbyterian College legend, died July 1. He was 109 and still fairly active. He attended most PC home football and basketball games with an assist from some very faithful friends. In recent years, he sat in his wheelchair just beyond the end line in Templeton Arena to watch the Blue Hose play basketball. There were always people around him to make sure an out-of-control basketball player didn’t crash into Dr. Joe. Dr. Joe was a Bible and religion professor at PC for a number of years and also served seven years as academic dean. He taught at other places – including the seminary at Erskine, where he received his bachelor’s degree. As a freshman at Erskine, Joe Gettys played football, but an injury ended his gridiron career. Later, he coached the freshman team as a senior. Dr. Joe played baseball throughout his time at Erskine and was the winning pitcher against the University of South Carolina. “We didn’t think much about that,” he said in 2015. “We used to beat them all the time.” Dr. Joe was named Pastor of the Year by the Association of Small Churches (those with less than 200 members) in 2007 for the Synod including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. He was 100 years old. He was a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian award. He began his career in the pulpit after retiring from teaching and he served as the interim or supply pastor for almost 40 churches, many of them more than once. Dr. Joe came back to Clinton to live at Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina in Clinton (then called Presbyterian Home) so he could dote on his ailing wife Mary Lou. They were married 67 years before she died in 2003. He was still teaching Sunday School at Clinton’s First Presbyterian Church at age 105. According to a tribute page on the Gray Funeral Home website, when he was 105, Dr. Joe was interviewed by a student for U.S. History class. His answer to her last question was, “I’m always looking forward to what the Lord has next for me.” When the Lord had nothing else for him to do here, Dr. Joe died and went to his eternal home. His death was announced on the PC Facebook page and the tributes and remembrances poured in. Some of them are reprinted here: “I know he heard these words from our Lord, well done good and faithful servant. Rest in Peace Dr. Joe. You will be missed by all.” “Our community has lost one of the great icons of the century.” “So many wonderful memories of Dr. Joe -- played my first round of golf in Clinton with him. He walked the course, carried his bag, and shot WAY below his age (which I think was 94 or so at the time!). So blessed to have known him.” “Dr. Joe was an amazing man!” “A great man and inspiration to countless students, especially students of ‘The Book.’ Dr. Joe will long be remembered and revered. To this day his shoes have proven to be un-fillable.” “Great man, good friend, and faithful servant to our Lord.” “He wrote books about being a Presbyterian, and I read one of those which helped me get back into church at age 21.” “Dr. Joe has been walking with the angels for many years. He has been a rich blessing to many people during his 109 years. He will be missed by many of us, especially when we prepare a SS lesson. I bet he is now holding Bible lessons in heaven. I hope so.” In a retrospective he wrote several years ago, Dr. Joe put it this way: “The good Lord has provided the opportunity, the motivation, the guidance and the ability to accomplish a great deal through the gift He has given me.” Those who knew Dr. Joe Gettys are fortunate and blessed. He’s the kind of man who comes along only once in a lifetime. And it’s a bonus when that lifetime lasts 109 years.