BLADENBORO — Hiram Hester is described as a man who “never met a stranger” and held a special place in his heart for Bladenboro.
Berry Lewis, who worked with Hester through Boost the ‘Boro, said Hester, “wanted to do something to get the town going again.”
Hester moved to Bladenboro in about 2003 when he brought his business Axicor to the town of Bladenboro.
“I met Hiram when he first came to Bladenboro,” said Lewis. “He was really adamant about what he did. He liked to have fun and he never met a stranger.”
Lewis said almost from the first day Hester arrived in Bladenboro, he rolled up his shirtsleeves and set about making Bladenboro a better place to live. Lewis said that when Hester first arrived in Bladenboro he noticed the town was slowly dying and Hester sought ways to change it. Out of those efforts to turn the town around, Boost the ‘Boro was created.
“Once he got it (Boost the ‘Boro) started, he got the board set up and got a nonprofit status, he formed several committees,” said Lewis.
From the efforts of the Boost the ‘Boro committee came such projects as a green space/park downtown, the annual BeastFest, the purchase of the Traxx building and most recently the construction of a Bladenboro Farmers’ Market, to name just a few of the things achieved through the committee.
“We would have lost that building had Hiram not gotten involved,” said Lewis of the Traxx building. “We cleaned it (the building) up … we were eventually able to sell it to Pawn South and we used the money to start the farmers’ market. We got a grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund to complete it (the farmers’ market).”
Lewis said Hester’s generosity didn’t just extend to the town, but to anyone who needed it.
“He’d help anybody,” said Lewis.
He added that, had Hester not stepped in when he did, he’s not certain what Bladenboro would look like today.
“There is a big difference from where Bladenboro was when he came and what it is now,” said Lewis.
He added that Hester’s favorite quote came from a meeting at Spaulding Monore School several years ago and goes something like this: “If you ever see a turtle on top of a fence post, he didn’t get there by himself. He had to have some help.”
Bladen County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson said, “It’s a loss to the Bladenboro community. A big loss.”
Peterson attended school with Hester and they played football together until Hester joined the Army and left the town.
“He wanted Bladenboro to grow and he just got a group together and talked about it and organized boost the ‘Boro,” said Peterson.
Hester once sought election of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners. Though Hester wasn’t elected, Peterson said that Hester thought he could do some good if elected to the position.
Peterson added that Hester was active at Bladenboro First Baptist Church, where he taught Youth Sunday School and was active in the choir.
“He really enjoyed the BeastFest and he enjoyed a microphone,” said Peterson. “He tried to make things better for all of us.”