Former China Grove Mayor Joseph Sloop dies at 87

Published 12:10 am Friday, December 9, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

CHINA GROVE — Joseph Sloop, who was the town’s mayor at the turn of the 21st century, has died at the age of 87.

Sloop was remembered by his acquaintances, friends and family members as a quiet man that dedicated his life to his community. In addition to being China Grove’s mayor from 1997 to 2003, Sloop served on the Rowan County Housing Board for many years, including nearly 20 years as chairman, and was heavily involved in Boy Scouts.

At the time of his death, Sloop lived in an assisted living facility near family members in Charleston, S.C., said his grandson David Edwards.

A visitation will be at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Linn-Honeycutt Funeral Home, Edwards said. Services will follow at 2:30 p.m. at Lutheran Chapel Church in China Grove.

A China Grove native, Sloop earned an accounting degree from Catawba College. He also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1950 to 1954. For 22 years, he worked at Citizens Federal Savings and Loan. He also taught courses at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College for many years.

In 1997, Sloop decided to challenge Gilbert Mesimer, the incumbent mayor at the time. Mesimer was running for a second consecutive term after earlier serving as mayor for many years.

At the time, Sloop told the Salisbury Post that he didn’t have a preconceived agenda when he decided to run for office. Sloop said he had decided to run after being asked by a group of people.

“I guess in every public office somebody wants to see a change,” Sloop told the Post. “I don’t know if I’m their answer or not.”

On election night, the unofficial margin for Sloop was 311 votes to Meismer’s 274. Sloop would win a second, four-year term in 1999. After his win in 1997, Sloop was ready for a quick rest instead of immediately getting to work.

“I’m whipped,” he told the Post. “I’ve been on this thing since 6 a.m. this morning.”

Former China Grove mayors Jim Morton and Don Bringle recall Sloop being a man who liked to listen to all sides of an issue and let town council members do the talking.

“I can tell you that he was a gentlemen and was a man that always seemed to be pretty attentive to detail,” Morton said.

Bringle said Sloop was a quiet man that dedicated himself to the community.

“He represented the town of China Grove well,” Bringle said.

The pair — Bringle and Sloop — actually ran against each other for the mayor position in 2003. Bringle would go on to win. At the time, China Grove was accustomed to turmoil, but the 2003 mayor’s race was described as the quietest one in the county. The two men were friends and both said China Grove would be served well by whoever won.

Current Mayor Pro Tem Steve Stroud, who also served on the town board with Sloop, said China Grove occasionally held marathon meetings to debate issues when Sloop was mayor.

“There were some different philosophies on the board at the time that didn’t always get along,” Stroud said. “I remember Joe hated meeting real late and he didn’t like controversy. He was a guy that wanted things to go smoothly.”

Barbara Doby, who also served on the council with Sloop, said he ensured that the town held fun events during his time in office. Doby also recalled Sloop helping out at the China Grove Roller Mill occasionally.

For his lifetime of work in the community and work with Boy Scouts, Sloop received the state’s highest civilian honor — the Order of the Long Leaf Pine — in 2002. In typical fashion, Sloop downplayed the honor, saying others had done far more than he had.

His action may have been simple, but they created important memories.

A tall man, Sloop would hold a young Edwards, his grandson, up to a grandfather clock to wind the springs. It was a weekly tradition after church that continued until Edwards grew too big to lift. The clock now sits in Edwards’ living room.

When talking about his grandfather’s life, Edwards easily recalled a number of memories, one of which comes up repeatedly.

“The one image I have over and over is him waving goodbye when we’d leave after a visit,” Edwards said about his grandfather. “I could see the tears welling up behind his glasses and I always hurt that we left them (Sloop and his wife Thetis) behind … I always knew while his home was China Grove his heart traveled with his family.”

Current China Grove Mayor Lee Withers said the Town of China Grove was saddened to learn about Sloop’s passing. Sloop will be missed, cherished and revered, Withers said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.