Ernest Gaines Gilstrap, age 92, passed away peacefully in his Easley, SC home to be with our Heavenly Father on September 9, 2019. Born in Liberty, SC, Ernest was one of nine children born to William Henry and Elsie Aiken Gilstrap. His beloved wife of 62 years, Margaret Louise, passed away in 2009.
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Ernest is survived by one sister, Emma Jean (Arnold) Beard of Easley; his three children, Constance Louise Truesdail (Richard), David Gaines Gilstrap (Sharon), and Charles Logan Gilstrap (Jane); five grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and two great great grandchildren.
After serving as a decorated U.S. Navy gunner in WW II, Ernest attended Brevard College from 1947-1949. Ernest and Louise made Brevard their home for over 70 years, where they were faithful members of the First United Methodist Church. Ernest worked with Olin Corporation for 34 years and retired in 1985. In 1968 he was appointed as one of the first district magistrates in North Carolina and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1992 at the age of 65.
For his committed services to Transylvania County, Governor James G. Martin presented Ernest with the State of North Carolina’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Because Ernest exemplified a public -spirited citizen, he was appointed to serve on the Transylvania County Board of Social Services from 1998 to 2001. In 2012, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s office recognized Ernest for his 40 years of service to the families and children of Transylvania County. He spent every Christmas Eve as the voice of Santa, calling county children to ask what their Christmas wishes were...including his jingle bells and his deep-throated, jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho". Ernest was also well-known as the “Voice of the Brevard Blue Devils”, announcing football games from the press box from 1954-2004. In 2015, Ernest was presented a handmade Quilt of Valor, a unique quilt designed especially for him, for his WW II service on the USS Massachusetts from 1942-1945.
Growing up in the foothills and living in the North Carolina mountains, Ernest had a passion for Bluegrass music and attending shaped-note singing events, where he would be called on to lead congregational singing. As a young man, he enjoyed acting with the Brevard Little Theater group as well as the Vagabond Players at Flat Rock Playhouse near Hendersonville, N.C. He always looked forward to Clemson University football weekends with his family and friends gathered to have huge tailgates prior to watching the Tigers in Death Valley. Devoted to the mission of Clemson University, he was an IPTAY lifetime scholarship donor.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to First United Methodist Church of Brevard.
A memorial service to celebrate the blessed life of Ernest G. Gilstrap will take place at Brevard First United Methodist Church, 325 N. Broad St., at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 22. Following the service, Ernest’s family will receive friends in the church fellowship hall.
Online condolences may be left at www.moodyconnollyfuneralhome.com
Moody-Connolly Funeral Home is assisting the family.