Letty Parrish and her husband, Bill, an Air Force sergeant, had returned from a tour in Germany and were shopping for their first house when they met Meryl Bulwinkle, who was selling real estate.
Name: Meryl Disney Bulwinkle.Community: Hanahan.Will be remembered: As an exceptionally kind woman dedicated to improving the real estate profession.Affiliations: Northwood Baptist Church, South Carolina Real Estate Commission, South Carolina Real Estate Board, National Association of Real Estate License Law Officials and Charleston Realtor Association.Survivors: Sons, Carson John Bulwinkle Jr. (Lynn), Hanahan, and Thomas D. Bulwinkle (Carol), Mount Pleasant; daughter, Paulette B. Boals, Daniel Island; sister, Betty Gibson, Hanahan; eight grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
Parrish can still hear Bulwinkle tell her: “Letty, I'm a good judge of character. If you ever want to go into real estate, come and see me. I went to work with them (Bulwinkle and her son, John) in 1975,” says Parrish, who was with the firm for 30 years.
“She was the kind of person you would want to have for your mother, your sister or your best friend,” Parrish says. “And you definitely wanted her for your boss. She was just that loving and kind.”
Bulwinkle was known to sell houses to difficult clients for her agents and allow the agents to receive their whole commission, Parrish says.
Bulwinkle was born in July 1924, in Jellico, Tenn. and died Oct. 26. She was co-owner and vice president of Bulwinkle Real Estate for nearly half a century. Her dedication to the profession shows in the many leadership positions she held to guide it.
She was a serious professional who could be quite a character, say Parrish and Horace Curry of Hanahan, who also knew her well.
Parrish says that when Bulwinkle was in her 50s, she walked into one of their weekly sales meetings wearing a Hanahan High School cheerleading outfit. “She had the bobby socks, saddle shoes, the right hairstyle with ribbons, everything and was cheering 'Sell! Sell! Sell!' ” To launch one of their sales contests, she wore a skating outfit with a tutu, crinoline and roller skates.
“You never knew what she was going to do next,” Parrish says. She counts Bulwinkle, her mentor, as someone who sometimes did things a little bit different from others in the field.
If Bulwinkle sold a house to a client who was moving to the Lowcountry, and the house was not ready to be occupied, she would take them to live at her house, Parrish says.
“She'd take kids, dogs and all,” Parrish says. “I went to the Meryl Bulwinkle school of real estate, and that's what we did.”
Curry knew Bulwinkle for years as someone who always cared enough to ask more questions about your well-being than she would let you ask about hers, he says.
Bulwinkle also loved to have coffee at Shoney's on Rivers Avenue, where she would invite anyone sitting alone to join her.
“She'd say 'Come sit with me. Come sit with me,' ” Curry says.
One day when Curry accepted her invitation, he decided to ask her something he had been wondering. He asked her what she carried in her gigantic purse, a signature accessory.
She said “I don't know.” Then she turned her purse upside down on the table to see what was in it, and something fell out.
“Oh, my God! Here is the diamond that fell off my ring. I've been looking for this for a long time.”
She did many memorable things, he says. Something she did in 1978 stands out the most.
Curry had fallen 14 feet from a ladder at a construction site onto the concrete below.
Bulwinkle ran to his aide from her Rivers Avenue office next door. She stood guard over him and would not let others move him, insisting on waiting for EMS.
“She kind of stood guard over me,” says Curry, who remembers her holding his hand until EMS arrived. “She was my connection to life.”
Her self-confidence and skills are only part of what made her successful in business, Curry says. She always wanted to touch people in some way, to reach out and say: “How can I help? How can I help?”
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.