[Photo: The presentation to the Blue family at the board meeting Monday night.]
By Catharin Shepard • Editor • When members of the Parks and Recreation advisory board asked people to talk about the late Parks and Rec Director Elgin Blue, nobody could find anything negative to say about him.
“He was a dear, respected member of our community,“ board chairman Jamie Dover said.
The advisory board Monday night brought a proposal before the Hoke County Board of Commissioners, seeking to name the county sports complex on Red Springs Road in honor of the late director.
After words of support from Blue’s family, advisory board members and several commissioners themselves, the commission unanimously voted to approve a motion renaming the park “Elgin Blue Memorial Park.”
The vote made the name official, but the county plans to put up new signs with the name and will host an event at the park to honor Blue with his family present.
Blue grew up in Hoke County as a three-sport athlete, first at Upchurch Junior High and then at Hoke High School. He won multiple MVP titles and help lead basketball, football and baseball teams to wins. After graduating with the Bucks Class of 1985, he attended Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Blue later returned home to Hoke County, where he worked for Parks and Recreation. The county hired him as athletic director in 2007. He served as interim director for a time in 2011, before being appointed director of Hoke County Parks and Recreation.
Blue died January 31, 2013 at the age of 45, just before he was set to be honored as part of the second ever class of the Hoke High Athletics Association’s Hall of Fame.
The many people who remember Blue, remember him fondly, Dover said.
“We did not find anything bad anybody said about Elgin Blue,” he said in a presentation at the board meeting Monday night.
Dover once worked as a coach with Blue, and recalled that he was great with people. Sometimes tempers could flare and people could get passionate about kids and sports, but Blue had a way of calming things down and finding a solution for everyone. He was a “great representative and ambassador for Hoke County, and a wonderful person,” Dover said.
“He (Blue) could take two parties and somehow make things come together,” he said.
Dover gave credit to Gilbert Johnson and Pamela Blue for encouraging the board to pursue naming the park after the late director.
“This is such a big recommendation. They (the advisory board) wanted to be sure to present someone who is really due that honor. We do, on behalf of the board. It’s unanimous, we would like for you guys to consider naming the 211 park after Elgin Blue,” Dover said.
Commissioners Harry Southerland and Commission Vice Chairman James Leach pointed out the large attendance in the audience of the late Blue’s family and friends.
“I look out and I see a sea of Blues here,” Southerland said.
Southerland said he had known Blue since they were in the fifth grade.
“I heard somebody say special. That’s the name I would characterize him, as being a special person,” he said. “Elgin had the talent to find the best in people. When you have an athlete, people might see the worst in him, Elgin would see the best in that athlete.”
He didn’t see the negative, he saw the positive in everything, the commissioner said.
“That’s why he smiled every day. You couldn’t make him upset,” Southerland said.
Blue’s mother spoke in favor of bestowing the posthumous honor on her son.
“He was my son, he was a wonderful young man, and his heart and his soul was in this park,” she said. “He knew how to keep things together, he really did. I guess it was a gift from God. And I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.”
His uncle, Walter Blue, said his late nephew was a “special kind of guy.” Others described Blue as a man who was a great athlete, had a heart for children and seniors and always had a smile for everyone.
“My son played football, he would listen to him (Blue) before he would listen to me,” one speaker said.
The advisory board members also praised Blue’s professionalism and love for coaching during his years working with Parks and Recreation. He managed to convince many other people to get involved with local youth by coaching or otherwise volunteering. Commissioner Tony Hunt was one of those people who became more involved in the community after meeting Blue years ago, the commissioner said.
Tasha Oldham of the Parks and Recreation advisory board recalled Blue as “one of a kind.”
“He was part of the planning of this park. It was one of the highlights that he saw. It was one of the things that he got to see through, but he didn’t get to see it complete all the way. He hasn’t seen the joy it’s brought to the county,” Oldham said.
Blue had a way with people, she continued.
“He left this county but he chose to come back here. He could have gone so many places and done so many other things, but Raeford was home. At the end of the day, he didn’t take his title for anything. That (director) title meant nothing to him…he wanted to be your friend, he wanted to be a mentor, and that’s what everybody that we’ve spoken to says,” Oldham said.
The county will announce a date for the park ceremony in the future.
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