Young At Heart

I first met Chuck Helpingstine in 2003, at his headquarters in Hillsborough, to discuss a potential partnership.

His store, Johnny T-shirt, had been a Chapel Hill staple for 20 years. The company was a perfect match for Inside Carolina. It was local, had a grassroots approach, and carried such a friendly and youthful vibe. In other words, it was Chuck personified.

Johnny T-shirt became the “Official Online Store” of Inside Carolina. Thus began a successful partnership – and my monthly visits to Millstone Drive.

They never seemed like business meetings. Chuck was always casual—in personality and attire. He was soft-spoken, welcoming and kind. That disposition was the norm among his co-workers that I got to know over the years, but is not commonly found in the business world outside the Carolina Blue walls of their warehouse.

The purpose of the drives to Hillsborough were technically to drop off promotional material, but it was more than that. I enjoyed the visits, no matter how brief. I enjoyed the friendly chats with Chuck and his co-workers, and our occasional lunches downtown. I enjoyed their genuine enthusiasm for Carolina sports. And, frankly, I thought the big warehouse of merchandise – which grew a lot bigger – was just cool.

In the last few years those visits began to skip months here and there. Work, family – life – made it more difficult to carve out the time for that drive down I-40. I regretted it then, but I regret it more so now. My last visit to Millstone Dr. was four months ago.

Chuck passed away last week. He was 53. I always assumed he was much younger not just because of his physical appearance, but because he truly seemed young at heart. Talking with him always left a smile on my face.

We extend our condolences to Chuck’s immediate family and his Johnny T-shirt family.

In his passing, we have lost a member of the Inside Carolina family.

RIP, Chuck.


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