There was a heart-breaking silence at first Baptist church in Abbeville tonight, where just three days ago, "Brother" Mike Whit preached before his congregation.
That voice was silenced last night by a heart attack at a church-league softball game. He was 40 years old. Carole White, a family friend, says his passing is like something out of a dream.
"We were at the game last night and it was just unbelievable that it could be happening right before our eyes,” she remembers.
Still in shock, the congregation organized a prayer service tonight for Whitt's wife, Melissa and their four children.
White says, "They need prayer, support, which I know because I’ve worked here in this town for 50 something years and they'll get it. Because this is a loving, supporting community."
As it rallies around whitt's family, the community is left to wonder why. Church member Thomas Starling says this sort of sudden death is beyond the community’s ability to grasp.
“Nobody understands, we don't understand it- it's just unbelievable.
Even through anger and disbelief, what stands out above all else is the legacy Brother Mike leaves behind. He was passionate and involved in community athletics; he mentored young people around the area, and he reached out to help those in need- regardless of who they were.
Mayor Jim Giganti says Mike Whitt had a way of being relatable to people from all walks of life. “He just was one of these rare people that you could go to, anybody could go to. It did not matter their station in life, if they had problems he was always available to talk to."
White remembers the kindness Brother Mike showed her family in a time of need. “He was so good to us when my husband had sickness… he was there for us,” she explains.
And now it’s the community’s turn to be there for the Whitt family. As the mourning process begins, those who lives were touched by Brother Mike know it will take time for the pain to heal.
Giganti says, “I think what time really does is teaches you how to live with the pain. He’ll never be forgotten.” Neither will the mark he left on his community.
Visitation will be in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church at 9:00 on Friday. The Funeral service will follow at 11:00 in the sanctuary.