Beaufort News

Beaufort matriarch who helped guide city department during decades of change dies

Linda Edgerley, a longtime Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department administrator, died on Monday. She was 74.
Linda Edgerley, a longtime Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department administrator, died on Monday. She was 74. Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department

If firefighters are a family, Linda Edgerley was somewhat of a Beaufort matriarch.

As the top administrative official for the city fire department, she was one of the first people new firefighters met, walking them through paperwork and handing out necessary equipment. After that, she’d become someone they turned to for advice on careers or relationships.

Edgerley, 74, died on Monday. She had been diagnosed several years ago with a chronic lung disease, said former fire chief Wendell Wilburn, who hired Edgerley.

A funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Community Bible Church in Port Royal.

Edgerley worked for the fire department from 1982, when the agency operated in a makeshift mobile home headquarters downtown, until she retired in 2009. During that time the fire service built a new headquarters on Ribaut Road, hired more firefighters, bought new engines, and contracted with Port Royal to cover the town’s emergency response needs.

“She was a part of the whole gearing up of the fire service of the city of Beaufort that had been ignored for a very long time,” Wilburn said.

All of that required a strong administrative presence, which Edgerley filled. She helped guide new hires through a variety of personal issues and sought out female firefighters to make them feel welcome, Wilburn said.

Firefighters called her “Mrs. E” or “Mom,” and she continued her role after her only son died almost 30 years ago.

Bruce Edgerley, 16, was playing recreation league baseball when he was hit in the chest by a line drive and pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Beaufort Memorial Hospital in May 1990, according to published reports at the time. Bruce Edgerley Memorial Ball Park in Port Royal is named for him.

Bruce enjoyed art, and his mom brought his work to the department to show off, Wilburn remembered Thursday. She returned to work soon after his death.

“It was like she needed to be around us,” Wilburn said. “She needed to be around that family. Of course, we were happy to have her there.”

Traci Guldner, who worked as Edgerley’s assistant and replaced her as office manager when she retired, remembers Edgerley at the department’s Christmas parties that were held at places like the Holiday Inn, Howard Johnson or the old Piggly Wiggly building. Edgerley and her husband, Don, watched others dance until the beach music played.

Then they hit the floor to dance the shag.

“They taught us a thing or two,” Guldner said.

Edgerley orchestrated the day-to-day operations for the firefighters, coordinating payroll and invoices and whatever else came across her desk as executive secretary. She was the contact for all city employees who needed access keys to the city’s fuel pump and served on various city committees.

Her duties extended beyond typical administrative tasks. When the department needed supplies, Edgerley drove to Walmart for laundry detergent, soap and other necessities.

“She meant everything to me as far as making sure we were taken care of,” said Fire Chief Reece Bertholf, who was early in his career as a firefighter during Edgerley’s final years with the department.

Her legacy in part is having trained Guldner and continuing a system that has worked well for decades, Bertholf said.

“She would be the first one to scold you if you did something wrong,” Guldner said. “And she’d be the first one to praise you when you did something great.”