Grand marshal has deep ties to town

Sandra Kinker can remember watching the South Hill Christmas Parade as a teenager while standing in front of South Hill United Methodist Church on N. Mecklenburg Avenue.
It’s a fitting memory for this year’s parade grand marshal.
When the annual South Hill Chamber/CCB Christmas Parade makes its way up Mecklenburg Avenue on Sunday afternoon, Kinker will be riding up a street her family has owned a business on for more than 70 years.
Kinker’s father, C. Hill Harper, and mother, Elton C. Harper, founded Harper Jewelry Co. in 1946 as Harper’s Watch Repair, which was located in the upstairs of the old Garland Drug store on S. Mecklenburg Avenue. The business moved to a second location about a block away before the Harpers built the current location at 114 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in 1958.
“So we have spent 70 years on Mecklenburg Avenue, right on this street in this town,” Kinker said.
A 1966 Park View High School graduate, Kinker, who recently turned 69 years old, was born and raised in South Hill. She married her husband, Billy, in 1969, and the couple lived in Colonial Heights for three years before returning to her hometown.
They bought the business from Kinker’s mother in 1990, more than five years after C. Hill Harper died.
Kinker said her family and business have been blessed to be part of the South Hill community.
“I love the town of South Hill,” Kinker said. “It is a wonderful place to grow up, to have a business and be in community with the wonderful people that are here, that have come and that have gone.”
In turn, Kinker has given back to the community. “Anything that they’ll let me do, I want to do it,” she said. “I very rarely give up anything.”
Kinker has been a member of South Hill United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, where she has taught Sunday school and facilitated teen and young adult Bible studies.
She taught many area youths how to swim at a pool behind her home for more than 20 years and also organizes line dancing classes.
She’s been involved in the South Hill Revitalization Committee for its entire 16-year existence and was the first president of the organization, which is focused on revitalizing and upgrading the downtown South Hill area. She also is a past president of the South Hill Chamber of Commerce and a past winner of the South Hill Rotary Club’s Service Above Self Award.
The Kinkers have two sons, Howard, who has worked at Scott’s Hyponex in Lawrenceville for 25-plus years, and Thomas, who resides in Richmond with his wife, Cara, and is employed by Virginia Asset Management. The Kinkers have four grandchildren, Victoria, 16, Lane, 12, Brady, 8, and Harper, 2.
In spring of 2016, the Kinkers undertook a remodel of Harper Jewelry Co., renovating the storefront of the building among other aspects.
“We’re enjoying the sunshine and the extra light that comes from the outside,” Kinker said. “It makes us look a little larger now that we’ve turned 70.”
Kinker said she was surprised and speechless when told she had been chosen as the grand marshal for the South Hill Christmas Parade.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this, to be in this town,” she said. “It’s a wonderful community. There is a common thread that runs among our people. We can do anything, will do anything to help, to elevate, to motivate.”
Kinker said receiving an honor of this type is never something she aspired to.
“I’m not thinking about that type of thing,” she said. “It’s just whatever the need is. We’re God’s hands and feet, and so it takes all of us to go forward. It’s just the next task, the next thing laid before you.
“I believe what it says in Jeremiah 29:11, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’
That is pretty much what I labor under.”