Nancy Runager has a warm disposition marked by a caring touch that has impacted the lives of many in the community she loves.
The Orangeburg resident is an avid cook and sports enthusiast who doesn’t mind washing tons of tablecloths and whipping up pancakes and other meals as part of her work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She does the same thing in her church, where the former youth leader heads the kitchen staff at First Presbyterian Church and works with its senior group, The Prime Time.
At age 79, Runager realizes she is not in her prime, but she continues to put her hand to whatever task she is assigned to do. It is her persistence in fulfilling her goals and any job set before her that earned her designation as the exemplification of diligence for the month of May as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
“I was speechless and dumbfounded, but I appreciate it. It’s mighty nice,” Runager said of the honor.
She said she enjoys volunteering with the FCA and Earl Humes, director of the Midlands 4 Office of the FCA, serving Orangeburg, Bamberg, Calhoun, Sumter and Clarendon counties.
“They have two big fundraisers every year to try to raise money to help send the boys and girls to camp and for those that need things. Earl can’t do it by himself, and he’s just such a lovely person to work with. I just try to see what I can do to help him,” including setting up tables, decorating buildings and preparing meals, Runager said.
Runager, who has also served as a long-time substitute teacher in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five, said she loves being around young people.
“I love all people, but I just love to see the youth. With the help of others, they are able to do the things they want to do and reach the goals they want to reach. I substituted for 25 years, and I just love those children. Today, they’ll grab me in the grocery store and just want a big hug again like they were little kindergarten kids,” she said.
“I enjoy helping others, especially those that need a little extra boost and encouragement. I wanted to do whatever the district called me to do.”
Runager enjoys serving fellow senior citizens, happily preparing meals for her church and The Prime Time seniors group.
“We have a meeting once a month and have a program of some kind. I prepare the meal for 30 to 40 people,” she said, noting that she has also learned to improvise, particularly when a group from Summerville made an unexpected visit and had to be fed.
“There were about 25 people on a bus that I was not expecting because they had not told me they were coming. So we started dividing up the plates. I was an interesting day, but I knew what the Bible was talking about with those loaves and fishes. They went a long way. Our food multiplied, and everybody seemed to have enjoyed it,” Runager said.
She said most of her work is in the church now that she’s older.
“My husband and I both enjoy all of that. I used to work with the youth a lot, but they need a young director,” Runager said.
She and her 84-year-old husband, Dr. Gerald “Geb” Runager, will have been married 60 years this August. She said she and Geb, a retired coach and principal who still serves as an assistant to Humes, have a lot in common. A love of people, sports and community service is one of them.
“You either are a team or you get out, and I have no intention of leaving,” she said. “I have always tried to support him because he coached all our lives. We had five children, and that kept me kind of busy. But we went to all the ball games and did everything together. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be the wind beneath someone else’s wings. I like to support.”
The Runagers are the parents of Mike, Pat, Max, Clark and Jane. They are the grandparents of 10. Max Runager became a punter in the National Football League and has earned Super Bowl rings with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.
Runager said she attributes her diligence to her late mother, Margaret.
“Everybody laughs and says, ‘You’re just like your mother,’ but she was always doing for someone. When she was young, she would help give parties or a dinner for the older people. She was always giving to someone and said, ‘If anybody needs a home, I have a home,’” Runager said.
“We kept a USO worker in our home. She didn’t have a place to stay during the war and needed a room and meals so mother invited her to come and stay,” she added. “We learned so much from her, too, and got to work with the USO and servicemen. That was a wonderful experience for a little 10- or 12-year-old girl.”
Runager said she doesn’t plan to sit around doing nothing with her time. She praised the OCCOC for its work in promoting good character.
“My husband and I try to do where we see the need. The Community of Character is bringing people together,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who or what you are other than, hopefully, being an upstanding citizen. It helps people look outside themselves.”
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