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John D. Orr, Florence businessman, philanthropist, and community leader, passed away on January 11, 2024 at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence. He was 83.
John was born in Washington, DC on November 3, 1940 to John F. ”Jack” Orr and Mary D. Orr, and his family moved to Florence in the mid-1940s. In the early 1950s John became a pupil and protégé of legendary golf professional and teacher D. Grant Bennett at the Florence Country Club. Along with contemporaries and friends Buddy Baker, Billy Womack, and Don Greiner, John dominated junior golf in South Carolina as well as regionally and nationally, winning multiple state and regional high school championships and national tournaments, and playing in two US Junior Championships. John remained close to Bennett until Bennett’s death in 2005.
John graduated from McClenaghan High School in 1958 and went on to the University of South Carolina on a Naval ROTC scholarship, playing on the University’s varsity golf team. He received a B.S. degree in mathematics in 1962 and was then commissioned in the US Navy in which he served for five years, first on a surface ship and then in the Submarine Service. After his naval service, John returned to Florence in 1967 and joined his father in the restaurant business, starting the Orr Company with his father.
John was active in civic life in Florence for over five decades. He served as a Trustee on the McLeod Health Board from 1993 to 2013. During his 20 years on the board, he served as Chairman of the Finance Committee (1995 to 2012) and the Nominating Committee (2008 to 2012). He was a longtime board member and chair of the board of the Methodist Manor of the Pee Dee and held numerous leadership positions at Central United Methodist Church.
John declined to serve as Chairman of the McLeod Health Board on several occasions, choosing instead to lead by example and influence rather than position. He was widely regarded as the conscience of the McLeod Board, and led the Board through difficult times in the early 2000s.
A widely recognized steward of the game of golf, John served as a member of the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation Board for decades. He helped lead and largely funded the resurgence of the Florence Junior Invitational (South Carolina’s oldest junior tournament) over the past fifteen years, and he led the effort to rename the tournament the Grant Bennett Florence Junior Invitational. John also endowed, in the name of Bennett, the Par Grant program with the South Carolina Junior Golf Association, which provides assistance to junior golfers whose families cannot afford the costs of participating in SCJGA tournaments. John was one of the three primary financial contributors to the teaching center at the Florence Country Club, which he insisted be named in honor of Bennett.
John personally mentored generations of Florence golfers, many of whom went on to play collegiate golf like John. Caring and focused, John could also be tough on his protégés, never failing to remind them to take off their caps when they went into the clubhouse or to tuck in their shirts.
As owner of the Orr Company, John owned and franchised Arby’s and KFC restaurants in the Florence and Sumter areas. As a leader of that company, he focused on quality, fiscal responsibility and customer service, and loyalty to his employees. His concern for the welfare of those with whom he worked lead to his starting an employee retirement plan in the early 1980s. When John retired, he sold the company to its employees through an ESOP plan.
John lived, served, and led mindful of the words of Luke 12:48 –”to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required ” and Galatians 6:7 “for whatsoever shall a man soweth, that shall he reap.”
John was humble, self-effacing, and obstinately refused to allow any of the facilities or programs he funded to be named in his honor, or even to be recognized for his contributions.
John is survived by his wife Ann, whom he married in 2018. John and Ann had five wonderful years together enjoying travel and the company of many good friends. In Ann John found redemption and joy after a long life of service and struggle. It was a great pleasure for John’s friends to see his devotion to Ann and his gratitude for her presence in his life.
John was predeceased by his first wife Mills Bonnett Orr. In addition, he is survived by his daughter Annie (Orr) Bloom, PhD, of Tacoma, WA; his brother and sister-in-law Larry and Sue Orr; and his sister Paula Wright; and nieces Jackie Wright of Florence, and Angie Meadows of Lenoir, NC; and nephew Brad (Viki) Orr of Beijing, China; and nieces and nephews by marriage Mendel and Gail West of Camden, SC, Laura Brewer, and Brian (Pat) Cockfield.
John’s funeral will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, January 15, 2024, at Central United Methodist Church in Florence, with a reception following in Spears Fellowship Hall. Services are directed by Waters-Powell Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to Central United Methodist Church, The Manor or the SC Junior Golf Association.