Bill Darby, the founder and former longtime publisher of Coast and Alternatives magazines on the Grand Strand, who has died at age 86, remains in the memory of so many people across the community.
The Clemson College graduate who in the Army flew among the first drone pilots during the Korean War, also co-founded the GOP in Horry County with a group including Al Tirrell of Myrtle Beach.
He viewed Darby as “a great guy, a good friend and … a particularly hard-working person.”
“I enjoyed his friendship for many years and his hard work for the Republican party,” Tirrell said, praising him for serving on the local and state levels “and on and on and on.”
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Darby’s work ethic also left Tirrell in awe.
“Everything he did was better than anybody else could do, I’m sure,” Tirrell said. “He had a memory like no one I really knew. He could remember everybody he met, and he never seemed to forget their names.”
Helping arts and nonprofits
Darby “was very passionate about this community,” said Diane DeVaughn Stokes, co-owner of Stages Video Productions in Myrtle Beach, and host of “Diane at Six” at 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays on WEZV-FM “Easy” 105.9 and WGTN-FM 100.7 FM, and anchor for HTC’s “Inside Out.”
Stokes, who had known Darby since the mid-1970s, called him “a great supporter of the arts.”
“Many times he would run ads for non-profits who could not afford to advertise,” she said. “He was very vocal in politics and fought for many causes.”
Stokes said Darby was active in the Coastal Advertising and Marketing Professionals club, now known as the American Advertising Federation-Coastal Carolinas, a group with members in North and South Carolina and Virginia. She also remembered a Silver Medal award he earned, “the highest honor given locally in advertising.”
She also admired Darby because he and his former wife, Birgit H. Darby, “remained friendly and supportive of each other” and for their two daughters.
Seeing Darby at a FPC Concerts series performance by an internationally known operetta earlier this year, Stokes remembered a vision he once articulated: “Let’s hope there is a performing arts center here when the next big name comes to town.”
Mona Prufer, among the communications staff at Coastal Carolina University, said Darby hired her for her first job locally after her relocation from California in the late 1980s. She had answered an ad to continue her career in advertising sales but Darby sized her up in another capacity for Coast magazine: “You look like an editor,” he said.
Prufer said his “very strong personality” impressed her, along with his persona as “an old-school journalist who ate, slept and walked journalism.”
Seeing him speak at a “Remembering Myrtle Beach” history series presentation this year in the city’s Chapin Memorial Library also enthralled Prufer. She said he “started with his ancestors and spent a lot of time talking about his time at Clemson and his Army exploits, and he never got around to Myrtle Beach, so he was invited to come back to speak about Myrtle Beach.”
Prufer called the initial session “super interesting,” at which “I learned a lot.”
If he wasn’t talking about his business matters, Prufer recalled, “he loved his daughters” and would always bring them up in conversation.
Growing up, seeing that ‘zest’
Darby’s younger daughter, Birgit Elizabeth “Lisa” Darby of New York City, visiting her mother in Myrtle Beach to help with arrangements, said she and her older sister, Greta Darby McDaniel of Bishopville, shared their father’s “zest for life.”
Birgit Darby said she admired his way of living, as he would say: “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Even with the means with which “he bent the rules a little,” she said, “he made Myrtle Beach grow; he really did … and he did a lot for tourism in Myrtle Beach.”
She also loved how her parents, though divorced in 1979, stayed “close friends for the rest of his life.”
“Birgit, my mother was his greatest supporter and friend,” Darby said. “She helped him build his business and was as much a part of his success as he was.”
Her father was “such a history buff” who loved seeing the world.
“Traveling with him was not just a tourism outing,” she said. “It was a history lesson. He was an adventurer at heart, and he loved the seas. We had sailboats growing up, and we were always on the ocean.”
His emphasis placed on education and reading became lifelong instilled values for both girls.
“He always had reading material with him,” Darby said. “He always had a book, five magazines and two newspapers in his arms. He never wanted to be caught in a down time without reading material.”
Big introduction for stage
The patriarch also turned Darby on to the Big Apple and a love of arts that she has turned into an acting career that also took her to Paris for a few years.
“When I was growing up in Myrtle Beach, there was no drama club or theater,” she said. “He introduced me to theater. Every fall, he would take me to New York City, where would see all the Broadway shows. We would see five shows in four days. We would get into the city on a Thursday afternoon, and he would say to circle in The New York Times ‘whatever you want to see.’ and he’d buy tickets to all of them.”
Darby said that in the bottom of a drawer, this past week, she found “he had saved every playbill of every show he took me to.” They also would see productions at the annual Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and “we flew to Paris to see ‘Les Miserables.’”
Darby said she was thankful to be able to fly in from New York, and be at her father’s side, reprising melodies aloud on Oct. 15, his final night alive.
“I sang songs from all the shows I could remember,” she said, with a trace of tears. “It was sort of poignant that ‘Les Mis’ was his favorite: He died while I was singing ‘Bring Him Home.’ That was meaningful.”
The family requests that any memorial donations go to The Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach, P.O. Box 3369, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582; or call 249-4948 or visit www.hsnmb.org .