Gwen Jenkins-Speller's letter to the editor included one of the best lines ever printed in this newspaper:
"Closing Piggly Wiggly is like taking prayer out of schools."
Today is the day the deed of biblical proportions is to take place at the Pig on Boundary Street in Beaufort, across from City Hall. The store has been a fixture there since 1987, but the corporate office said it wasn't performing up to expectations.
Bargain hunters had stripped the place down to oddball condiments by Thursday.
Manager Donald Goodwine stood among empty shelves and tried to explain a store whose value to the community could never be rung up on a cash register. Its tale sounds like a Gullah version of Mayberry. Indeed, a lady from St. Helena Island called in dismay with the question: "They closin' we store?"
'We store' was a place where office workers would leave their desks to soothe crying babies in the checkout line.
Betty Waskiewicz was known as "the store mom." She brightened the place every Thursday. Her late husband, Stan, was the camellia king, but you always knew when his vegetable garden was in because Betty brought all the workers zucchini bread.
Groceries were delivered to the elderly if they were sick.
Generations of kids got their first jobs there, and Goodwine checked their report cards each quarter. Lower grades meant fewer hours.
Goodwine said he knew nine out of 10 people who came through the doors. They were like family.
Goodwine had managed the store since it moved from Port Republic Street 27 years ago.
But as a Piggly Wiggly ad would say, he's been local since forever.
His mother, Queen Esther Goodwine, still lives in the house on Greene Street where Dr. Herbert Keyserling, father of today's Mayor Billy Keyserling, delivered Goodwine on St. Patrick's Day 1954.
His first job was as a 13-year-old dishwasher at the legendary tavern, The Yankee. He was in the Beaufort High School class of 1972.
One of Goodwine's earliest mentors was a blind neighbor who planted visions in his young mind. Retired educator Foch Shanklin could tell the neighborhood boys by their voices. He always asked as they walked by what they were going to do after high school.
Goodwine got a degree in business administration from Voorhees College and started with Piggly Wiggly in Shell Point as a bookkeeper in 1982. Tony Poythress picked him to be assistant store manager when he opened the Piggly Wiggly at Shelter Cove on Hilton Head Island in 1985, and Poythress remains a mentor.
Along the way, the soft-spoken Goodwine answered a call to the ministry. He is pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Burton.
While wrestling in recent years with the heavy demands from both jobs, Goodwine got an answer from the Lord.
"He told me he gave me the biggest congregation there was," Goodwine said.
It was the community. It was in the store.
Beaufort sheds a tear today because closing the Piggly Wiggly really is like taking prayer out of schools.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.