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The Reverend Robert Sumter (Bobby) Link, husband of Mary Ann Craig Link, died Friday, July 17, 2020, at Prisma Health–Laurens. He was 89. A Presbyterian minister his entire adult life, he served congregations in Moncks Corner and Chesterfield, SC, Chadbourn, NC, and Floyd, VA, as well as interim and supply positions following his retirement to Holden Beach, NC, including Hallstead, PA, and several others in eastern North Carolina. He and Mary Ann relocated to Clinton in 2014 and have been residents at Woodbridge Senior Living-Clinton.
Born August 15, 1930, on the Moro island of Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippine Islands, he was the son of Francis Lawson Link of Abbeville, SC, and Emily Schuck Link of Jolo. After the death of his father in the Philippines in 1931 and the subsequent death of his mother in 1936 in Abbeville while on a trip to the United States, he and his brother and sister were adopted by his paternal aunt and her husband, Mary Lawson Link Townsend and Charles Pinckney Townsend, Jr. of Abbeville, where he spent the remainder of his childhood. Although only five years of age when he left the Philippines, he often related stories of his experiences on Jolo and other small islands in the Sulu Sea, and he remained proud of his Moro heritage his entire life.
Upon his graduation from Abbeville High School in 1947 (the last year of 11 grades in South Carolina), and a family move to Laurens, SC, he spent one semester at Clemson (where he was one of the regular buglers) before enrolling at Presbyterian College in Clinton in 1948. While at PC he sang in the Glee Club, played trumpet in the band, and earned a varsity letter while wrestling on PC’s first wrestling team in 1949 and 1950.
His college years were interrupted when he enlisted in the US Navy at the outbreak of the Korean War, serving from 1950 – 1954. During the war he participated in two six-month cruises on aircraft carriers off the Korean peninsula where his duties included loading bombs and ammunition on planes on the flight deck, often in sub-zero temperatures. He was pleased that during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, weather analysts confirmed what he had always thought – that Korea was the coldest place on earth.
During a visit to Clinton in 1954 while still in the Navy, and with the assistance of a crisply pressed uniform and a 1953 Ford convertible, he met his future wife, Mary Ann, who was then serving as the Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church, Clinton. After their marriage on May 8, 1954, and upon his discharge from the Navy later that year, he re-enrolled at PC, earning his BA degree as a member of the class of 1956. After ministerial studies at Erskine Seminary in Due West, SC, and Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA, he received his Master of Divinity degree from Columbia in 1959.
A beloved pastor at churches he served, he was a gifted teacher and theologian, able to explain even the most obscure and nuanced reformed concepts in understandable terms. While in Chesterfield, he led the congregation in the remodeling of its sanctuary, and while in Floyd helped build a new church facility after several rural “chapels” had been consolidated. For many years he served on the examinations committee of The Presbytery of the Peaks in western Virginia, mentoring a number of young ministers as they began their careers. He served as moderator of Pee Dee Presbytery in South Carolina in 1970 and was a commissioner to General Assembly on several occasions. When asked the question of where he would spend eternity, he would always answer that he was spending part of it right here, and he believed that there were no second-class citizens here in God’s kingdom. He came to view I Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive,” as being among the most literal of all New Testament passages.
An avid outdoorsman and sportsman, he raised game chickens as a boy as well as hunting dogs his entire life. He hunted quail throughout the southeast and was a founding member of the Chesterfield Field Trial Association. He enjoyed playing golf and ping-pong (which he played using an oriental style he learned in the Navy) as well as tending his prized rose gardens. Although short-lived, accounts of his boxing career in the Navy grew legendary, and his stories of Jolo, Abbeville, Clemson, the Navy, PC, among many others entertained countless folks over the years. And contrary to what some often assumed, they were all true.
In addition to his wife of 66 years, he is survived by his two sons, Robert Sumter Link, Jr (Amy) of Clinton, and Charles Craig Link (Debbie) of Hurdle Mills, NC; grandsons Craig Carruth Link (Evelyn) of Washington, DC, Robert Sumter Link, III (Elizabeth) of Columbia, SC, Jeremiah Franklin Link (Brianna) of Sellersville, PA, and Charles Benjamin Link (Dom) of Durham, NC; granddaughter Sara Caroline Link Broadright (Royce) of Timberlake, NC; step-granddaughters Rachel Kelly Wade (John) of Lenexa, KS, and Mary Katherine Kelly of Clinton; great-grandchildren Surrey Gray Link, Knox Braddock Link, Sailor Joy Link, McMillan Sadler Link, and Edward Mitchell Link; as well as numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins both in the US and the Philippines. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Mary Jane Link, as well as his brother, William Edwin Link, and his sister, Mary Ahadiah Link Robey.
Memorials may be made to Presbyterian College, 503 S Broad St, Clinton, SC 29325, to the Scotsman’s Club Fund for the Wrestling Team.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, July 24, 2020, at 10:30 AM at the Long Cane Cemetery, Hwy 28 Bypass & Greenville St, Abbeville, SC. The service will be open, however social distancing protocols will be required. A video recording of the service will be posted on the Chandler-Jackson website after the service.
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