State honors First UMC member who overcame cerebral palsy to live life of service
By Allison Trussell
CHERAW–It takes a village to raise a child. But Jimmy Duffy has turned that saying on its head.
It took the child–in this case, the now-grown Duffy–to raise the church and Cheraw, said Phil Powell, former director of recreation for the Town of Cheraw.
First United Methodist Church saluted Duffy in its Jan. 23 morning service, presenting him with the Order of the Silver Crescent.
Rep. Ted Vick presented Duffy with the crescent, one of the state’s highest orders. It is the latest award to come Duffy’s way for his service to Cheraw and First UMC.
Duffy, as he is known to friends, has been a fixture of both since moving to Cheraw as a boy.
“I feel like Jimmy is the face of Cheraw,” said the Rev. Paul Wood.
Despite being born with cerebral palsy, Duffy has been active in the Boy Scouts of America, has been umpire or referee at community and high school sporting events, and he mentors physically and mentally challenged children at the local primary school.
“Jimmy Duffy proves we are children of God,” Wood said during his sermon, which focused on the Beatitudes. “Our self-perspective is changed because Jimmy Duffy has assurance. We have every reason to be joyful with every step he takes, every quip he makes. He’s all right, we’re all right.”
Duffy’s entrance into scouting came when a friend asked him to temporarily fill in as assistant scoutmaster. Some 40 years and countless awards later, he’s still active, spending his summer as camp commissioner at Camp Coker and working with First UMC’s troop.
He began his umpiring career as a 14-year-old, working at an adult softball game. The difference in ages didn’t intimidate him in the least.
“I don’t care if I’m 6 years old. If I’m behind the plate, I’m in charge,” Duffy chuckled.
Duffy has also received numerous awards and honors for his sports involvement. One of the fields at Caston Park is named in his honor, and the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism named him Volunteer of the Year. Dixie Youth Baseball awarded him the Danny Jones Award, and he is in the organization’s Honor Roll. One of his favorite memories is carrying the chains during a Shrine Bowl football game.
Although he doesn’t umpire any more, he still keeps score and has moved from the field to the classroom at Cheraw Primary School.
For the past 10 years, he has mentored children who have challenges. The children relate to him because he is willing to face and overcome his own physical challenges.
Wood said one of the reasons Duffy is beloved in the community and church is “because you remind us of the current reality of God’s promises.”