Sidney Fletcher taught science at Wingate for more than 40 years, back when only a handful of students majored in biology or chemistry. His sense of humor and dedication – no matter the task at hand – lingered in students’ minds long after they left his class.
“Just a sweet man,” says Tina Day, who had Fletcher for biology as a freshman in the early 1980s. “He was very convicted in his beliefs. And he had a cool sense of humor.”
Fletcher died on Sunday, June 10, at the age of 90.
Fletcher lived into his ninth decade in part because he stayed on the go throughout his life. He was an active member of Wingate Baptist Church and Gideons International, and he was a committed instructor at Wingate Junior College, then College and finally University.
Fletcher began his teaching career at Wingate in 1958, teaching botany, earth science and other biology courses. He remained a favorite of students past his official retirement, in 1994, staying on for several years to teach as an adjunct.
He was dedicated to opening up students’ minds to the wonders of earth science. Long before Wingate enrolled biology majors by the busload, Sidney Fletcher and other science professors took entire classes on field trips to the Outer Banks, to islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, and to the mountains of North Carolina.
“He was really good, and everybody loved him,” says Henry Funderburk, who had Fletcher for botany as a freshman in 1961. “He was kind of no-nonsense, but at the same time he was jovial. He’s had that sense of humor all of his life.”
Funderburk ultimately became a colleague of Fletcher’s at Wingate and even introduced Fletcher to the Gideons. Fletcher signed up and put his all into spreading the Gospel and putting Bibles into hotel rooms and schools. “I’ve been a Gideon longer than he has, but he’s been more active in the Gideons than I am,” Funderburk says.
“Active” is a good adjective to describe Fletcher. For decades he could be seen riding his bicycle on campus, and he frequented the University pool to swim laps.
“I would be at Wingate, even 10 years ago, and he was riding a bicycle on campus,” Funderburk says. “Eighty-something years old and riding a bicycle.”
Years after learning about biology from him as a Wingate freshman, Day got to know Fletcher well at Wingate Baptist Church.
“Mr. Fletcher was a very kind man,” Day says. “He was opinionated and didn’t mind speaking his mind. But his mind was usually full of love and the Gospel.”
“Sid was always generous,” Funderburk says. “He was a giver. I don’t know all of his contributions. I’m sure he was very faithful to his church, because I know he believed in tithing. He believed in spreading the word, and if you’re going to spread Bibles, you’re going to have to buy those Bibles.”
During this past school year, he even gave Funderburk his extensive rock collection, for Funderburk’s daughter to use in her earth science classes at Porter Ridge High School. He told Funderburk: “I have a rock collection that I’m really proud of, and I know that I’m not going to last much longer and don’t want to give it to some kid who’s going to throw rocks at people.”
That one gesture displayed the best of Fletcher’s character: generous and dedicated, but with a sense of humor.
The family will receive friends on Saturday, June 16, from 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the Wingate Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. A celebration service will follow in the church sanctuary at 2 p.m. A short graveside service will be held at Lakeland Memorial Park in Monroe after the celebration service. Memorials may be made to The Gideons International, P.O. Box 1183, Monroe, NC 28111-1183.
- Faculty Spotlight