‘PreacherMan’ Freddie Hargrove remembered as one-of-a-kind
The physical departure of a man known and beloved throughout Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina has saddened many, but the spirit and the voice of a larger-than-life figure will continue to live in the hearts and souls of those fortunate to have known Freddie “PreacherMan” Hargrove Sr., who died Thursday, Nov. 17.
Hargrove was 81.
Hargrove’s passing coincided with the imminent arrival of the 2016 Thanksgiving Day holiday, the significance of which was not lost on those who knew him as a man of unwavering faith in God. Although the voice had softened some with age, the eternally youthful zest and zeal for life and love for God and family and friends that abounded in and around Hargrove remained unchanged in recent years.
“Freddie possessed an amazing ability to love and to make you feel special,” said Nancy Talley, who as co-owner of South Hill’s Old Belt Broadcasting Corporation along with husband Norm Talley, invited Hargrove to take to the airwaves here in 1989 after what had already amounted to a stellar career in local radio as the keynote voice of WARR “WARR 15” located in Warrenton, N.C., where for decades Hargrove donned headphones and sat down to a microphone to share a unique and unforgettable mix of gospel, blues and southern soul music, all of which served as the backdrop to “PreacherMan’s” captivating style of broadcasting that immediately put listeners at ease and that quickly drew them in for Hargrove’s hugely successful intertwining of inspiration and entertainment loved by men, women and youngsters of all ages and from all walks of life.
“Freddie loved to share his faith and his love for God and family,” Talley continued. “He never met a stranger, and whatever he did, he did with a passion and a spirit of giving that resonated with all people. Freddie and I could talk about anything. He cared about you and what mattered to you.”
She reflected upon one of their final visits.
“A friend and I stopped by to visit while we were in North Carolina. Freddie’s wife Helen, who also had become and remains a very dear friend, told me Freddie was resting, but that he would want to be awakened upon our visit. I told her not to disturb him, but she said that he would want to be awakened, and soon afterward we were sitting down enjoying one of many visits throughout the years,” Talley said. “When I got ready to leave, Freddie said, ‘Please don’t leave. Stay on a little while longer. He began reminiscing over tons of memorabilia he had amassed during his career, and we shared so many fond memories. I’m so glad I took the time to stay on a while longer. We love Freddie and Helen and their family. Freddie will be greatly missed by all that knew and loved him.”
Talley’s husband, Norm, himself a half-century veteran of local airwaves and then-owner of the Old Belt Broadcasting Corporation, recalled with much fondness the years that Hargrove shared with local listeners beginning in 1989 when he agreed to accept a position with Old Belt-owned WSHV AM 1370, where the PreacherMan quickly settled in for a long haul as afternoon drive host of a show similarly tailored as his previous stints that included his years at WARR in addition to an equally successful run at WIZS Henderson, N.C.
With a passion for the old school craft of painting pictures through voice that often separated “disc jockeys” from genuine radio personalities, Talley said that when it came to Hargrove, the skill and artistry that distinguished a personality served as fuel for an unquenchable fire for the PreacherMan, which often enabled him to successfully build bridges and understanding between residents of local communities in Virginia and North Carolina.
Norm Talley recalled with fondness and affection Hargrove’s ability to influence those whose trust he had earned as a man first and secondly as an on-air personality.
“Oh my goodness, Freddie was from that old school that so many today would give anything to be a part of,” Talley said, noting that, “if Freddie went on the air and said ‘you need to go over to such-and-such’s store and buy some ground beef, you were going to head over to such-and-such’s store and buy that ground beef. That is a unique blend of just incredible skill and salesmanship, and it is squarely rooted first and foremost in trust and respect. People knew if the PreacherMan endorsed that ground beef, or an automotive dealership, or a home builder or whomever, you could bank on his word. That is an amazing tribute to the measure of a true man, a true professional and a beloved and trusted voice and friend.
“Freddie never underestimated the impact of the spoken word, and yet he lived by example. A tireless champion for all people, Freddie served as an invaluable tie that brought people together under a single banner of love and unity,” Talley said, adding, “Freddie did not easily give respect or commit his trust to anyone. You had to earn that respect and that trust, and when you did so, you had accomplished something of great significance.
“Nancy and I loved and will continue to love Freddie, Helen and their wonderful family. Freddie leaves behind a tremendous and powerful legacy that will live on through his beloved wife and family and in the hearts and, most importantly, in the day-to-day lives of those touched by his life and presence.”
“Sir” Robert Wilson, who several years ago departed from a then-lifelong career in Mecklenburg County radio that began with the Old Belt Broadcasting Corporation in the 1970s, has since assumed part-time duties across the Virginia-North Carolina border at WARR. Wilson, who worked for a number of years here alongside Hargrove, noted that, “When Freddie came to South Hill, he was ‘the man’ — he did what people loved. When he spoke, people listened. Freddie had great influence on many, many lives. The things he said, the way he worded things… they stayed with you. He stayed with you. He was a good man, and when he saw a need, he rolled up his sleeves and he got the job done. He was one-of-a-kind, and he touched a lot of lives,” Wilson said.
Online condolences may be offered at boydsfuneralservice.com. Boyd’s Funeral Service of Warrenton, N.C., was entrusted with the care of the Hargrove family during their time of loss.