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Alan Altman: Pawleys community leader dies at 55

By From staff reports
Coastal Observer

Alan Altman always wore a tie at work. In most places that wouldn’t be remarkable, but for someone selling the Pawleys Island lifestyle to home buyers and vacationers it was.

He said it was important to send a message about professionalism, even on an island where polo shirts count as “Sunday best.”

And it was a message that he sent in a life lived in service to the community, friends and colleagues say.

Altman died Tuesday morning at his home. He was 55 and had battled cancer for two years.

He was broker-in-charge at Pawleys Island Realty, a business started by his father more than 50 years ago.

“Like many business people, I was a genius in 2005, but today I am back to being stupid and trying to figure it all out,” he said after receiving the Lifetime Leadership Award from the Chamber of Commerce last year.

“Cancer may have taken his body, but it never took his spirit,” said Dr. Robert Whitehead, a long-time friend. “Deep down he was the same old ‘Governor Altman’ who used to hold court at supper club, making everybody laugh and making everyone’s day a little better.”

Alan Stacey Altman was born June 16, 1957, in Beaufort, the son of Robert Linwood and Nancy Stacey Altman. He was a Boy Scout and earned his Eagle Scout rank at age 13.

He graduated from Winyah High School in Georgetown in 1975. He earned a degree in political science from Furman University.

He served on the President’s Advisory Council at Furman for the last six years. “His dedication to education extends well beyond Furman’s campus,” Tom Triplitt, the director of constituent relations at the university, said in a letter supporting Atlman’s nomination for the Order of the Silver Crescent.

He received the award last week. It is the state’s highest award for community service.

County Council Chairman Sel Hemingway called Altman a “true community leader in the sense that he has always been one that is sought out by others for leadership positions without him soliciting for the position.”

He chaired the Pawleys Island Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee and was “our go-to guy for a lot of things in the Pawleys Island area,” Mayor Bill Otis said.

He was a trustee for the Pawleys Island Chapel, and friends recalled him helping worshipers on hot summer Sundays.

Perhaps his most high-profile role in the town was as the emcee for the Pawleys Island Civic Association’s annual meetings in the chapel. One year, when feral cats were a hot topic, he brought a box tied with string that seemed to thrash wildly on the podium. He suggested one way to reduce the cat population: give them as door prizes.

“Arrogantly Tabby,” was his suggestion for a new town bumper sticker.

Altman was also a member of the Visions committee that started work on the county’s long-range plan in the late 1990s. He co-chaired the transportation committee, which advocated taking pressure off Highway 17 along Waccamaw Neck.

“Any time a large group of Georgetonians are sitting together, it’s successful,” he said after the first phase of the plan.

He was frequently among those at the table.

He served as a trustee of the Georgetown Hospital System, state director S.C. Association of Realtors; the Blue Ribbon Committee to review the state’s coastal regulations; the board of the Coastal Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts, the board of Pawleys Island Montessori Day School, president of the Waccamaw Neck Lions Club, a member of the Bunnelle Foundation board, president of Winyah Indigo Society, a board member of the Waccamaw Neck Civic Association and a Kids Voting board member.

He joined the Bunnelle board in 2004. His approach was typical.

“What we need to do is ask what some of the larger issues are and then figure out how best they might be addressed,” he said at the time. “We need to include as many participants in the discussion as we can.”

“His gift of insight was extremely helpful in recognizing the opportunities and challenges facing our county,” said Geales Sands, the foundation’s executive director. “He has touched many lives through his unerring kindness and personal generosity.”

Whitehead said Altman made people feel welcome to Pawleys Island.

“Those of us who have lived in Pawleys the last 20 years or so consider ourselves locals. But to us, Alan was the true local, our connection to Pawleys’ past, an original born and bred here,” he said.

In his role with the town accommodations tax committee and the civic association’s marketing committee Altman helped guide tourism promotion for the town.

Most of the town’s visitors return every year, and he believed that the pursuit of new visitors shouldn’t overshadow efforts to maintain the island’s appeal.

One innovation at Pawleys Island Realty was serving boiled peanuts to renters who arrived on Saturday. “I’ve eaten boiled peanuts all my life. I’m an aficionado,” he once said.

They didn’t always appeal to Northerners, but Southerners loved them.

“It just gets better and better,” one renter told Altman.

He was co-owner of Pawleys Island Enterprises and owner of Pawleys/Litchfield Services. He received the Realtor Image Award in 1999.

During the depth of the Great Recession, Altman and his father started Pawleys Lifestyles in an old grocery store across the parking lot from the real estate office.

“We have always tried not to lay anybody off in the off-season,” he explained, “but this new economy is pushing our limits.”

The shop helped keep the seasonal staff busy.

“In recent years,” he said after receiving the chamber award, “I finally understood that the only real things I have accomplished have been watching three beautiful people evolve and grow right before my eyes: Sarah, Casey and Alex.”

In a college newspaper interview Triplitt said Altman was asked to finish the statement, “If I could start all over again, I would ...” His reply was. “Run a little faster, study a little longer, play a little harder and dance a few more dances.”

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Betsy Walker Altman; two daughters, Sarah Emily and Casey Elizabeth Altman; a son, Alex Linwood Altman; two sisters, Nancy Altman and her husband, Randy Harris, and Ann Morris and her husband, Chet; nephews Jake and Dean Harris and nieces Stacey and Gracie Morris.

A funeral service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Pawleys Island Community Church by the Rev. Harold Lewis and Rev. Toombs Kay. A private burial will follow at Elmwood Cemetery for family and close friends.

The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Goldfinch Funeral Home Beach Chapel. A guestbook is available at goldfinchfuneralhome.com.

Memorials may be made to Pawleys Island Chapel, P.O. Box 304, Pawleys Island, SC 29585 or to the Boy Scouts of America, 1025 Sam Rittenburg Blvd., Charleston, SC 29407.

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