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Scholarship Series — Thad and Mary Bingham: Live your dream!

Editor’s note: Each week, the Courier will be taking a look at local scholarships and the people they are named for.

By Sandi Scannelli
Clemmons Community Foundation

Thad and Mary Bingham shared the words “live your dream” as encouraging advice for their children and grandchildren. If alive today, they’d likely even see the past pandemic year as an opportunity, because that is how they viewed life’s challenges. Thad and Mary’s daughter, Donna Bingham Merriman, recalls several expressions she heard over the years: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” “Work hard and don’t give up.” “Use your hardship as a stepping stone to greatness.”

That positive “push” and perseverance resulted in many blessings for the family and a generous charitable gift in 2015 to the Clemmons Community Foundation — a gift which would help others in the community every year, in perpetuity. Merriman shares, “they had a kind and generous heart that never stopped giving. You could always count on them. While they were alive, they really didn’t like recognition. As a daughter, I want their legacy to live on through their generosity.” In recognition and memory of her parents and their words to live by, Merriman recommended three scholarships from the Thad and Mary Bingham Fund. The scholarships will be awarded to West Forsyth High School graduates; two for graduating high school graduating seniors and one scholarship for a student who graduated in a previous year and is returning to school.   

Merriman recalls that she didn’t get the college push because she started a business with her mother. Yet, her parents sensed the change in the marketplace and recognized the importance of degrees and credentials. They wanted all the grandchildren to go to college and even set up a fund to make sure the grandchildren were not financially burdened by the cost of higher education. Merriman adds, “They really did not care whether it was a four-year degree or other credential; they just wanted to be sure the grandchildren learned a trade that they could always fall back on.” Not every student is so fortunate, which is why Merriman recommended three scholarships this year in her parents’ names. The scholarships are for deserving students who have a passion for their career choice and are committed to working hard through the career preparation required. Despite some news reports, there are available job opportunities. Many employers remain understaffed because they cannot find the specific skills or credentials needed for certain occupations. These scholarships will help students earn credentials and help employers fill those gaps.

Thad and Mary Bingham built a life in Clemmons. Their love for family, community, and church shaped their generous lives. Thad Johnson Bingham was born on Oct. 27, 1925, to Jessie Johnson Bingham and Fred Bingham in Randolph County. Thad served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He was a successful businessman, owning and operating Bingham Lumber Company for many years. He was humble, gentle, kind, and noted for being entrepreneurial, having earned his first silver dollar holding the tail of a dog for one minute.

Mary Doby Bingham was born April 13, 1937, in Surry County to the late Bina Doby and Clora Lowe Doby. Raised in a family where you learned to be self-sufficient, she understood what it meant to be without the nicer things in life … even indoor plumbing. But she was determined to learn and achieve. She skipped the third grade and then challenged herself to complete her education with perfect attendance — and she did.   

When Mary met Thad, she swept him off his feet. They married and had two daughters, Donna and Denise, and lived a full life together for 63 years. A close family, Mary and Merriman started a business as partners (Fraleigh’s Boutique in Clemmons) in 1981, which Merriman continues to operate today.

Mary and Thad were people of great faith and lifelong, active members of Clemmons United Methodist Church. They loved their church and community and were a source of generosity, helping both to grow and flourish. Thad Bingham passed away on Aug. 30, 2018, at 92. Mary joined him just two years later on Sept. 28, 2020, after a long illness.  Thad and Mary will be remembered as pillars of the community, and thanks to their generosity, three more students will have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education and appreciate the Binghams’ encouraging words to “live your dream.”

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.

Excerpts herein are borrowed and/or adapted from family remarks at the celebrations of life and from Clemmons United Methodist Church Pastor Paula Northrup’s message at Mary Bingham’s celebration of life, Oct. 2, 2020.