It's been a while since my last post. I have started many drafts over the past month which were left unfinished/posted.
My Father-in-Law, Lewis "Earl" Gilstrap, passed away about a week ago at the young age of 66. He was humbly at peace with it knowing he was going to meet his Maker. As his family, we cling to that testament that he is resting and protecting us from above which brings ease to us as we learn to adapt to life without him. For those who didn't know Earl Gilstrap, you missed out on a kind, humble man. A Christian man who lead by example. My life was blessed to know him and having the honor to watch over him in some of his final days. The picture above was taken in Charleston the day of our wedding. He was my Husband's Best Man that day, and all days. Earl always did have a light shining down on him.
Earl was loved and thought so highly of by so many. His funeral and visitation was a true testament of the impact he had on so many lives. Below is a write-up from Upstatetoday.com:
"EASLEY ― Earl Gilstrap knew success in athletics and academics. But those who knew and loved the longtime Pickens County educator, who spent a number of years as principal of Daniel High School, said he was an even better person.
Former Pickens County educator Earl Gilstrap, who spent a portion of his career as principal of Daniel High School, is pictured during his tenure there. Gilstrap, who was also known as an outstanding athlete while playing football at Clemson in the late 1960s and early 70s, passed away last week at age 66.
“Earl was an outstanding person in every way,” said John Wade, who served as principal at Easley Junior High School when Gilstrap was a teacher. “He was someone you could rely on to be at his station and could make kids behave without scorning them. Having the athletic ability he did, a lot of those young boys looked up to him. When he said something to them, he knew how to do it without hollering at them or embarrassing them.”
Gilstrap passed away last week at age 66, and funeral services were held Monday in Easley. Just as former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, who passed away Sunday, has been lauded nationally for being a mentor to many future head coaches, the same could be said about Gilstrap when it came to mentoring education leaders.
During his time at Daniel High, one of Gilstrap’s assistant principals was Michael Thorsland. Thorsland succeeded his boss after Gilstrap’s 2002 promotion to director of secondary education for the School District of Pickens County.
Ultimately, Thorsland was named assistant superintendent of operational services in the School District of Oconee County and, last summer, was named district superintendent. Thorsland attributes his success to Gilstrap.
“I consider him a mentor that I learned much from as a teacher, assistant principal and principal,” Thorsland said. “He was just a great principal, which is how I knew him the best. I worked for him for 8-9 years, and he was always even-keeled, never letting emotion get in the way of his decisions.”
One thing that especially stood out to Thorsland was how meticulous Gilstrap was in carrying out his duties as principal.
“One thing I will always remember about Earl is the tool he used to remember things,” Thorsland said. “He carried a 3×5 spiral notebook in his pocket, and every time you told him something he needed to remember, he pulled it out and made notes.”
SDPC assistant superintendent of instructional services Sharon Huff said Gilstrap was director of secondary education for Pickens County when she was named to succeed Thorsland as Daniel High principal in 2005.
“Throughout my first year as a new principal, I often turned to him for guidance on challenging situations,” Huff said. “He was a strong mentor, always willing to listen and give great advice. I am thankful to have worked with him.”
Pickens County superintendent Danny Merck called Gilstrap “a tremendous leader in our school district.”
“His family is well-respected across the county,” Merck said. “Earl led with consistence and patience. He was known by everyone to be a reasonable and detailed person.”
Merck said Gilstrap had a routine that everyone who knew him was well aware of.
“We knew his routine, even if we did not work with him,” he said. “We knew Earl was going to run two miles every day, that he would write in blue ink and that all of his correspondence was handwritten.”
William Smith, a special education teacher in the school district, said he first met Gilstrap in 1998, when his children, Corey and Lacey, entered ninth grade at Daniel High. Though apprehensive about transitioning their visually impaired daughter from Edwards Middle School to Daniel High, Smith said Gilstrap quickly put those fears to rest.
“One of the first friendly faces to greet us was that of Earl Gilstrap,” Smith said. “On that day, he promised to look out for Lacey and make sure she was well cared for at Daniel High School. It was a promise he made good on ― not only staying informed about her needs, but always greeting her in the hall with his familiar voice so that she knew he was passing her. I doubt there ever was a time in the hall as she swung her cane back and forth that he did not say her name.”
Later, as Gilstrap and Smith’s children moved on from Daniel, Smith said he had the privilege of working with Gilstrap when he stepped in as administrator at Simpson Academy for a year.
“Working with children with disabilities is a wonderful job, but Earl Gilstrap, with his compassion for children with special needs, brought his own special way with my students,” he said. “I will always be thankful to have known him and worked with him. He was truly a high-class gentleman.”
Merck said Gilstrap had “a great heart.”
“We will miss Earl Gilstrap, but his legacy will remain with us,” Merck said. “We are a better district because of his leadership.”
Wade, a former mayor of Six Mile and longtime Clemson supporter, said he also remembers Gilstrap during his days as a football player at Clemson ― where he was an excellent kickoff coverage specialist, defensive back and center. But Wade said he also remembers what an outstanding basketball player Gilstrap was.
“He was a tremendous basketball player,” Wade said. “He was an unstoppable player, a good athlete.”
But Wade said what made Gilstrap so special was his ability to excel in every area ― whether as an athlete, teacher or administrator. Those talents, great as they were, aren’t what Wade and others close to Gilstrap will miss the most.
“He was a good friend,” Wade said.
Gilstrap is survived by his wife, two sons, daughter and granddaughter."
Earl was diagnosed with terminal, stage 4 brain cancer just a few short months ago in November 2014. It came out of nowhere and took us all by surprise. We will forever cherish our memories we had with him and hopefully will be able to find the silver lining in cancer as time passes. Though our hearts are heavy, we know Earl is watching over us, smiling, talking sports, and still making a difference.
Millennial. Southern. Professional, REALTOR in Columbia, SC.