When he was 14, Charles Hooks of Raleigh took a church trip to Myrtle Beach and found himself on a roller coaster next to the Sunday school leader who planned the expedition, Casper Holroyd.
As they climbed the first steep incline, the anticipation building, Holroyd took out his camera and urged his young friend to smile.
"He was just like a kid," Hooks remembers.
Thirty years later, Hooks is married with two kids. He and Holroyd are good friends. And he's still going on Holroyd's annual beach retreat.
Holroyd, 82, is a fixture in Raleigh. He was chairman of the Raleigh school board in the 1970s, leading city schools into integration. He served in the legislature and was inducted to the Raleigh Hall of Fame in 2008. He is involved in community groups and is a boisterous supporter of athletics at Duke University, from which he graduated in 1948.
But his strongest passion is the JOY Class, the youth Sunday school class he started at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church nearly 50 years ago. As part of that class, Holroyd for 40 years has led a group of teens and adults to a weekend retreat at the Springmaid resort in Myrtle Beach.
A few weeks ago, 90 children attended, supervised by 38 adults - including 10 who went as teens. They played sports, performed skits, visited an amusement park, took a Bible quiz, gave devotionals and slept little.
Holroyd's joyous spirit permeated the weekend. He dashed from event to event, snapping photo after photo, being a friend to one and all. Always being a friend.
Phillip Rose, 39, one of the adults who attended this year, also went as a teen. "His energy level and his commitment haven't changed one bit," Rose says. "He has such an unbelievable spirit."
When Holroyd greets you, Rose says, you feel like the most special person in the world. Because for that moment, you are the most special person in Casper's world.
In Casper's world, everyone is a friend. The lonely teen. The troubled adult. The home-bound elderly.
In running the JOY Class, which has nearly 200 members, Holroyd is ably assisted by his daughter Jane Holding. Holroyd phones each student on his or her birthday. He inquires often about their activities and family. He sends them photos he took of them with their friends and parents.
Holroyd hates attention. Over the years, he's dodged an N&O reporter who wanted to write about him and the JOY Class. But we are friends, and he couldn't dodge me. I wanted you to know about him and the way he inspires me and everyone who has met him.
French author and Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac wrote, "No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever."
For the thousands who have crossed his path, Casper Holroyd has left a lasting mark of love and friendship.
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