Couple honored for their service, giving spirits

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2013

It’s doubtful that either John or Barbara Bumgarner would have imagined as children that they would be giving away so much money as adults.
“We both came from meager backgrounds,” says Barbara.
John clarifies: “We were poor.”
For their generous giving and dedicated service, Lutheran Services Carolinas recently named the Salisbury couple Philanthropists of the Year for central North Carolina. John and Barbara served as campaign chairs for LSC’s Keeping the Promise capital campaign, which raised more than $5 million for the organization.
“The Bumgarners have supported LSC for as long as we have existed,” said LSC President Ted Goins. “John has served two different tours of duty on the LSC board. Barbara has been a strong supporter and volunteer, and she was the driving force behind two different major gifts to LSC.”
John grew up, as he describes it, on a muddy road in Catawba County. He attended Sweetwater School and later, Lutheran Day School. He managed to get into Newton’s brand new Fred T. Foard High School even though he didn’t live in the district by agreeing to drive a school bus. To make extra money, he worked evenings at a restaurant called Mull’s.
Despite working so much, he managed to stand out academically, and his English teacher encouraged him to go to college. He hadn’t really considered that, he said, since neither of his parents had been. He won a Morehead Scholarship at attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1955 but chose not to accept it, choosing to go to college instead at nearby Lenoir-Rhyne. On weekends he found time to play saxophone for the Campus Cats, making what was then the princely sum of $20 a gig. After graduating he was accepted to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond to study medicine.
Barbara grew up in Springfield, Ohio. Her father died when she was 13, and she and her mother, Dorothy, struggled to manage on their own. Barbara worked in her school’s cafeteria so she could get her lunches for free, and after school she had a job in a pharmacy. After graduating from high school in 1958 she went to nursing school at Mercy Hospital in Springfield. There weren’t many choices for women then, she notes, and she remembers that some people didn’t think she’d like nursing. Nevertheless, she grew to love it.
It was at Mercy Hospital that she met John, in 1966. “She chased me till I caught her,” he jokes.
John moved back to Newton and began a general medicine practice in 1967. Barbara moved to Conover, and the two married in 1971 at Faith Lutheran Church. In 1973, Barbara and John moved to Winston-Salem so that John could complete an anesthesiology residency at Bowman Gray. They then moved to Salisbury, where John became the first board-trained anesthesiologist who came and stayed. He practiced until 2000.
Being an anesthesiologist wasn’t enough to satisfy John’s restless mind. In the late 1970s, he and his brother, Donald, became business partners and acquired their first trucking warehouse. That was the beginning of the Spartan Group.
The business thrived over the years and now stretches over five states. It’s been good to them, Barbara says, providing all they needed and much more. And now they’re happy to share their good fortune.
They became aware of Lutheran Services Carolinas when John’s father, Clyde, lived in what was then the Lutheran Home-Hickory. Ted Goins, now president of Lutheran Services Carolinas, was the administrator there.
Out of this experience, John became a Lutheran Services board member, which is when he and Barbara become aware of the needs the organization was meeting. What they learned motivated them to give generously, which they’ve done quietly and without expectation of acknowledgement.
“We both grew up with the feeling, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’ ” Barbara says. “You don’t want your money sitting there and doing nothing. You want to share it.”