Obituary of Luther Rankin Conger, Jr.
Luther Rankin Conger, Jr., 91, passed away peacefully with his family by his side after a short period of declining health, on December 14, 2023.
He was born in Statesville, NC on April 9, 1932 to Amelia Bowie and Luther Rankin Sr. Luther grew up in the streets and fields of Statesville, the oldest of four rambunctious, close-knit brothers, his life revolving around a love of family, hard work, and baseball.
Luther was educated in the Statesville schools and was a three-sport athlete, excelling as a four-year starting pitcher for Scott High School, later playing for the Statesville American Legion and Salisbury Bombers semi-pro teams. Out of high school he was offered a contract by the Cincinnati Reds but turned it down because he wanted to go to college.
Luther was a proud and loyal alum of Elon College, class of 1955. He often said that, initially, one of the things he loved most about going away to college was that he didn't have to battle his brothers at mealtime. However, his years at Elon proved to be a wonderful, formative time for him, providing him with an appreciation of learning and the professional skills he would utilize throughout his long life.
After graduating from Elon, Luther signed a professional baseball contract with the Baltimore Orioles organization, who then assigned him to their minor league team in Quebec, Canada. Luther had studied German at Elon instead of French, but he always said "When you're hungry, you quickly learn to speak the native language." After playing in Canada, the Orioles next sent him to Columbia, South America where, it is assumed, he soon learned Spanish.
His baseball career was interrupted in 1956 when he was inducted into the U.S. Army. Upon his discharge in 1958, Luther continued his baseball career in Louisville, KY and Wilson, NC before he deciding it was time to seek steadier employment to support his growing family.
After a period of time working for the International Harvester Corporation, Luther joined the Hartford Insurance Group in 1959 as a property and casualty insurance marketing representative, traveling throughout Alambama, Mississippi, and North Carolina, eventually settling with his young family in Kernersville where he lived the remainder of his life. Throughout his career, the values he was taught in his family, the love of life-long education that was nurtured at his university, and the value of teamwork he developed from his days as an elite athlete led to a steady series of promotions. In 1985, after a distinguished career, Luther retired from the Hartford after 36 years.
Luther was inducted into the Elon College Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and into the Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. During his career with the Hartford he received numerous awards recognizing his outstanding service.
Luther enjoyed a long and active retirement. He took great pride in his yard, working tirelessly to help make his home and yard a neighborhood showcase. A lifelong athlete, Luther began to play golf in his retirement, regularly "shooting his age" when he was in his 80's. He loved the game and particularly enjoyed his weekly golf games with his golfing pals.
He maintained his love of baseball and the team that hired him, watching and supporting the Baltimore Orioles throughout his life. In addition, one of the true pleasures of his life was coaching his beloved grandson Luke's Mattamuskeet Middle School baseball team in 2003. Finally, Luther enjoyed a long and heartfelt battle with squirrels, humanely "re-locating" his backyard squirrels to undisclosed locations in neighboring counties.
A faithful member of Kernersville's Main Street United Methodist Church, Luther will be remembered as a hard-working man of integrity and faith who was devoted to his family.
Luther was pre-deceased by his wife of 67 years, Louise Conger, who passed away in April 2023. He is survived by his daughter Deborah Conger Sears and her husband, Charles Sears of Fairfield, NC; grandson Luke Sears of Kernersville; daughter Cydney "Patty" Conger and husband, Ed Simpson of WInston-Salem; and step-grandchildren Ben Simpson of Black Mountain and Molly Simpson and step-great grandson Abbot Hachey of Durham. He is also survived by his brothers Tom Conger (Frances) of Rockville, Maryland, George (Nancy) of Statesville; and Jim (Dotty) of Statesville as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held on Friday, December 22 at 1:00 PM at the Oakwood Cemetery in Statesville, NC. Luther's family would like to thank friends and family for the kindness shown during this time. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Luther Conger's name to Main Street United Methodist Church or to the Salvation Army of Kernersville.