Miss Sue left lasting impression here
Sue McFerrin loved jewelry, fishing, her family and church. “Miss” Sue, as so many called her, continued a tradition of forthright honesty and hard work that she brought to her family business until she passed away on Dec. 28 at the age of 95.
Miss Sue spent more than 76 years in downtown Greenville, sharing decades of knowledge and expertise with her customers, whether they were shopping for fine jewelry or other gifts or picking that fine china pattern for their new home.
Born and raised in the Central Community and a graduate of Greenville High School, Miss Sue got her first job at the age of 18 at J. Lewis Haygood Jewelry Store, where she quickly fell in love with the jewelry business.
Miss Sue worked at Haygood Jewelry from 1944 until 1946, when Haygood sold the business to Johnson Brothers Jewelry. She continued to work for Johnson Brothers until 1981. Johnson’s transitioned to Braxton’s Jewelry in 1981, where she stayed on staff until 1984. It was then that Miss Sue made the decision to go into business for herself, doing what she had grown to love.
In March of 1985 Miss Sue, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Evelyn and Dan Pride, opened the Crystal Fountain, featuring china, crystal and silver, along with jewelry and gifts. Miss Sue had spent 41 years working for jewelers on Commerce Street, so opening her own store in the same area just came naturally.
The Crystal Fountain opened its doors in what once was a gas station and later a bread company. In 1993 Evelyn and Dan Pride retired, and Miss Sue’s daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Bob Foster, joined forces with her. The store received a new name: McFerrin’s Jewelry.
Miss Sue’s daughter, Susan Foster, says her mother was the hardest working woman she knows. “Mama always instilled a strong work ethic and stressed the importance of working hard for what you have. She led by example with that work ethic her entire life,” said Foster.
Longtime customer and friend, Mary Frances Rogers Jones, fondly referred to McFerrin as a tremendous friend. “I’ve known Sue for nearly 66 years and have loved her every since we met,” said Jones. “I first met Sue when I was engaged to be married. She was working at Johnson Jewelry and she helped me pick out my china and silver – and I’ve done business with her every since that time. Sue gave the best advice on jewelry, silver, and china, and I could always trust her to tell me the truth. I loved going in the store and chatting with her. She was a tremendous friend and I’m going to miss her dearly,” said Jones.
Miss Sue’s career in the jewelry industry allowed her the opportunity to attend the National Bridal Registry School where she received her certification in wedding etiquette.
Working with brides-to-be was one of McFerrin’s favorite parts of her job, according to those close to her.
“She really enjoyed helping family and friends pick out personal gifts for the bride and groom,” said Miss Sue’s granddaughter, Jehle Piggott. “China is always at the top of the list of our bridal registries. Grandmama believed china should be used, not stored away. She always advised young women that if they get a piece of china to use it, don’t put it away in a cabinet – It’s meant to be used,” says Piggott.
In addition to her sales expertise, Piggott said her grandmother also specialized in stringing pearls, hand-polishing silver, and performing minor jewelry repairs. Miss Sue’s customers could always count on having access to last-minute gift items on Christmas Eve – after all, since 1944 she only missed two Christmas Eves on Commerce Street.
“My grandmother came to work every day and never took time off. Oftentimes, she would be the first to come in and the last to leave,” Piggott said. “She had her own customers who have been coming to her for decades. She could remember every bride’s patterns and even had records to help her if some were less memorable. She built a clientele that followed and shopped with her faithfully.”
Carl Easterling of Easterling Produce, who served as a pall bearer at Miss Sue’s funeral, describes her as one of a kind. “I’ve known Miss Sue since I was 12-years-old,”said Easterling. “I’ve been working fresh fruit and produce routes since I was a little boy and I remember first meeting her when she was down at the Johnson Jewelry store. For more than fifty years I’ve stopped by and checked regularly with Miss Sue. She loved Honey Crisp apples, nectarines, sweet potatoes, peaches, and broccoli. She was always so sweet over the years and she always called me her little boy on the truck, Easterling said with a smile. “Miss Sue’s passing really hurt and I’m going to miss her a lot. I was truly honored to be a pall bearer at the funeral – that meant a lot.”
Miss Sue was an active member of First Baptist Church of Greenville. “Miss Sue joined the church on April 12, 1966,” said Pastor Chase Clower. “Not only was she a longtime member of the church, but she was a faithful member. It was a joy to serve as her pastor. Each week I would greet her in the vestibule and see her in the pew that was her favorite. Praise God for faithful members of His church.”
Miss Sue believed that the one piece of jewelry that every woman should own is a string of pearls or a gold bangle bracelet. She’d always say “classy jewelry never goes out of style.” Miss Sue, always beautifully turned out and ready to assist customers with their jewelry, gift or china needs, was a regular at the store, along with daughter Susan and granddaughter, Jehle, until November 2020.
Miss Sue was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Rufus Edward McFerrin; parents, E. C. and Valera Brannon; siblings, Cumi Brannon Stuart, Winifred Brannon, Juanita Brannon Carter, and John Brannon. She is survived by her daughter, Susan McFerrin Foster (Bob); grandchildren, Nathaniel Foster (Hope) and Jehle McFerrin Foster Piggott (Slade); great grandchildren, Pride Piggott, Daniel Foster, McFerrin Piggott, Brooke Foster, and Maddie Bolling; sister, Evelyn Brannon Pride; Ed McFerrin, Michael McFerrin and many other nieces and nephews.
Miss Sue was very fond of the downtown Greenville business district. After all, she spent the last 77 years making a livelihood there. Miss Sue’s grandson in-law, Slade Piggott, says it was only fitting that her journey to her final resting place carried her through the downtown route and the heart of the town she loved and knew so well.
Sue cont’d from front page