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Inspiration comes from all ages

They were separated in age by exactly 70 years…roughly three full generations apart. However, they were so much alike in the way each man inspired others.

Last week, over a span of less than 24 hours, we lost Brandon Warren and Joe Dickerson, both of whom called Murfreesboro as home. Brandon was 26; Joe had celebrated his 96th birthday three months ago.

Brandon was a standout baseball player as well as excelling in the classroom, making a name for himself at Hertford County High School where he remains as the only three-time Conference Player of the Year (2009-2010-2011). He signed an athletic scholarship at Barton College in Wilson, earning Pitcher of the Year honors there in 2014, and graduating with a degree in Business/Sports Management. Over the summer months, while out of college, Brandon further crafted his pitching skills by competing with the Asheboro Copperheads in the Coastal Plains League.

A bright future in baseball – perhaps at the professional level – was delayed when Brandon was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. But just like he did on the pitching mound or at the plate with a bat in his hand, Brandon sized up his opponent, bowed his neck, and went to battle.

From my personal dealings with Brandon and his family following the cancer diagnosis, this young man never waved the white flag of surrender. He carried the words of the late Jim Valvano in his heart…“Never give up, never ever give up.”

If you had the opportunity to be around him over the final few years of his life, Brandon Warren always had a smile on his face and a positive outlook on life. He was an inspiration to me and to countess others.

Heaven must have needed a big right-handed to add to their starting rotation. They got one on July 28….and a great young man to boot.

And where do I start when it comes to talking about Joe Dickerson? Like my father, Joe was part of the Greatest Generation, men who were plucked from the farmfields of northeastern North Carolina and sent halfway across the world to extinguish the flames of war sparked by Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Joe was part of perhaps the most famous battle of World War II – an Allied invasion of France on the beaches of Normandy. Over 6,600 American troops were killed in that invasion. Joe wasn’t among them, but was wounded more than once. Counting his wounds later at another famous conflict – the Battle of the Bulge – Joe earned four Purple Hearts along with the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars.

But it was what Joe did with his life after his military service that stands head and shoulders above the rest. He came home to Murfreesboro where his impact was legendary.

He ran a successful business – Western Auto – on Main Street for 40 years. Somehow, one Christmas, when I was munch younger, a Western Flyer bicycle I had my eye on while browsing through that store wound up beside our family’s Christmas tree. For years I thought Joe Dickerson was Santa Claus.

Joe also served on the Murfreesboro Town Council; helped to start the Murfreesboro Rescue Squad; and was a 70-plus year member of American George Masonic Lodge #17, AF&AM.

But yet his greatest accomplishment stands proudly today along Broad Street in front of the Murfreesboro Town Hall.

In 2006, Dickerson led an effort to have a Veterans Memorial built there. He rallied others to the same cause and six months and $62,000 in donations later, ground was broken to erect the four-tiered Georgian granite memorial. It features over 500 names of local individuals that served in the Navy, Army, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf wars.

Joe Dickerson’s name is there, and rightfully so.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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