Born in Gastonia on October 5, 1928, to Charlton Kennedy Torrence, Sr. and Marguerite Ring Torrence, his ancestors were among the earliest settlers in Gaston County. He embodied both their native Scots frugality and his own compassionate generosity and made a lasting impact on Gastonia and Gaston County.
Charlton graduated from Gastonia’s public school system, Darlington Prep School and Davidson College, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He remembered with pride his 1945 pitching triumph in a 5-0 shutout against Shelby, who won the American Legion World Series that year.
He also pitched for Davidson from 1947-1951. Charlton joined the Navy Reserve in 1952, served aboard the USS Francis Robinson and was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant in 1955.
He began his career at Superior Yarn Mills, doing every job in the mill before becoming its VP and Treasurer. He continued in sales after Superior was sold to Clyde Fabrics which was sold to Textiles, Inc., (later Ti-Caro, Inc.) and then to Dixie Yarns. He was a member of Civitan in the late 50s, joined The Rotary Club of Gastonia in 2014 and was named a Paul Harris Fellow in 2015.
He was also awarded the Bud Schiele Lifetime Achievement plate in 2009 by the Schiele Museum and Planetarium, a proclamation of gratitude from Gastonia City Council and then-mayor John Bridgeman in 2016, and received the Community Foundation of Gaston County’s Alan H. Sims Award in 2017.
Charlton was married for 42 years to the love of his life, Mary Elizabeth Mason, who died in 1997. They married in June of 1955 and raised their 3 children in Gastonia. He was a member of Gaston Country Club and excelled on the golf course and tennis court, where he was so competitive that he was known as “Nasty” after popular tennis star Ilie Nastase.
He was a lifelong member and leader at First Presbyterian Church, serving as a Deacon and Elder and chairing numerous committees. He was instrumental in the creation of the church’s columbarium, and in commissioning “A Christian Witness: History of First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia” by Marion Ellis.
He loved his community and worked tirelessly to make things better for all. In addition to significant financial contributions, he generously gave his time and experience and became a vital part of those causes and organizations: First Presbyterian Church Gastonia, The Schiele Museum and Planetarium, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Gastonia Potter’s House, Crisis Assistance Ministry, and many others. Numerous individuals, churches and schools also benefited from the deep well of Charlton’s compassion.
Family was the center of Charlton’s life, and we are so grateful for every one of his 90 years on this earth. He and son Charlton III shared the same birthday and never missed a year of celebrating together. The most recent occasion was October 2018 at Pawley’s Island, a beloved vacation spot, often enjoyed with family and friends.
Charlton was preceded in death by his wife and parents and his sister Jean Marie Torrence, and is survived by daughters Elizabeth Ring Torrence Stafford (Billy) and Catherine Mason Torrence Giles, son Charlton Kennedy Torrence III – all of Gastonia – and granddaughters Sarah Elizabeth Giles Arnold (Sean) of Wasilla, Alaska and Meredith Torrence Giles of Charleston, South Carolina and their father, Christopher T. Giles of Gastonia.
He is also survived by his cousins Clay Vance Ring (d. November 17, 2018) and Ann Hall Ring Wauford, Ellen Larson Gray, Mary Gray Clouse, April Gray Rohrer, William M. Gray, George A. Gray III, Glenn L. Gray, Sally Gray Lovejoy, Nan K. White and James Tracy Ormand.
Charlton Torrence will be remembered as a quintessential Southern gentleman of kindness, integrity, and generosity, with a roguish twinkle in his eye and a deadpan sense of humor that caught people off guard. He was an endearing flirt and was always ready with a wink or a hug to brighten someone’s day. He was a humble man who much preferred to stay in the background, but, graciously allowed his name to be used in order to encourage philanthropy in others.
The family will welcome friends at a visitation from 3:00-4:30pm on Friday, November 30 in the Covenant Village Living Room.
There will also be a short visitation after the memorial service at 1:30pm on December 2nd, First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia before interment at Oakwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers or food, the family requests that memorials may be made to any of the organizations listed above to or the charity of your choice.
Condolence messages and remembrances may be shared online at www.McLeanFuneral.com.
McLean Funeral Directors of Gastonia is serving the Torrence family.
Published in Gaston Gazette on Nov. 24, 2018