Warner Miller Montgomery, Ph.D., co-owner and past president of The Columbia Star newspaper, passed away November 24, 2023, from complications of advanced dementia. He was 84. Warner died peacefully in the skilled nursing care center of Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife and son by his side.
A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday, November 30, at 1 p.m. at Dunbar Funeral Home on Devine Street in Columbia. A reception will follow the service.
Born May 10, 1939, to Mary Gourdin Montgomery and W. Miller Montgomery, Warner always claimed to have been the first baby born at Columbia’s Providence Hospital. In recent years, it was revealed that perhaps he was not the very first baby born there, but that was his story and he was sticking to it.
Warner grew up in the Forest Hills section of Columbia when many of the neighborhood’s streets were still unpaved. He spoke often and fondly of his idyllic childhood and teenage years in Forest Hills, traipsing through the woods and creeks with friends Walter, Gene, Jake, Kelly, and others.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Shandon was his family’s church, and he attended there until moving away for a time from Columbia. While there, he served as an acolyte, taught Sunday school, and coached the girls’ basketball team.
While living in Canada, Warner was active in Unity Church. Upon returning to Columbia, he joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, where he and Linda Sosbee were married.
From 2008 until 2020, he and Linda spent most weekends and holidays at their log cabin at Horrell Hill in Lower Richland. There they joined the “Church of Nature” as well as being home-churched.
Warner went from first grade all the way through high school at Schneider Elementary, Hand Junior High, and Dreher High School, with many of the same classmates, something rarely heard of today.
He treasured those long friendships so dearly that when he returned to live in Columbia in 1989, he organized those friends into the ‘39ers since most of them were born in 1939. They began meeting monthly for lunch. The group of friends has had numerous reunions, and 34 years later, they still meet monthly for lunch.
After high school graduation, Warner studied for two years at Sewanee, the University of the South, before transferring to the University of South Carolina, where he earned a BA and a Master’s in Education. Inspired by then, President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps, Warner applied, and was accepted, to serve.
After Peace Corps training at the University of Michigan, Warner served in Thailand for two years where he taught English, coached soccer, and learned to amputate toes and fingers at a leprosy hospital.
After the Peace Corps, Warner continued his education at the University of Michigan, earning a Master’s in Southeast Asian Studies and a Ph.D. in Comparative Education.
Back in Columbia, Warner taught history and coached soccer and football at A.C. Flora High School, served as assistant principal at C.A. Johnson High School, founded and served as principal of Avanti, an alternative high school in Richland District One, taught at Ohio University for two years, and was an adjunct at Allen University.
Always ready for an adventure, he accepted the position of principal of the International School in Douala, Cameroon, in West Africa. During his two years there, he took advantage of every opportunity to travel to other parts of Africa.
After Cameroon, Warner spent several years in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada. There he founded a business focused on continuing education for seniors, and was an adjunct instructor at Brock University.
The year 1989 was pivotal for Warner. He returned to Columbia, and with his sister, Mimi Maddock, joined their father, Miller Montgomery, at what was then The Star Reporter newspaper. The three of them implemented numerous changes and upgrades that made what was then considered a “Five Points newspaper” into The Columbia Star which, in 2023, celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Also in 1989, Warner met Linda Sosbee, who would become his wife in 1991. The two became inseparable after their first date. They had much in common, but their mutual curiosity about the world and a willingness to travel to satisfy that curiosity strengthened their bond. In their more than 32 years of marriage, the two traveled to over 120 countries and 47 of the 50 states, as well as to most of the small towns in South Carolina.
With packs on their backs, they traveled the globe – Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Venezuela, Belize, India, Nepal, Singapore, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, islands in the Caribbean. They rode a British train originally built for the Russian Tsars from St. Petersburg across the northern route through Siberia to Vladivostok. They sailed on a Russian cruise ship across the Black Sea from Istanbul, Turkey, to Odessa, Ukraine. In India they hiked high into the Himalayas to the source of the Ganges a trek both admitted was the most dangerous thing they had ever done in their lives.
After many years of budget travel, Linda finally told Warner she needed more stars in her hotels. It was then that they discovered the joys of small-group tours, including small-ship river cruises to Italy, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
Warner’s travels before meeting Linda, and his travels with her, were turned into hundreds of stories that were published in The Columbia Star and that remain popular to this day. They also became slide shows and stories for 30 years’ worth of Adventure Travel classes at the Shepherd’s Center of Columbia, as well as talks to various clubs and groups in town. Warner was active in, and held offices in, the Columbia Rotary Club, the Torch Club, the Loblolly Society, and The Greater Piedmont Chapter of the Explorers Club, Historic Columbia, the Robert Burns Society, and the Five Points Association. He wrote and published four local history books, as well as one historical novel yet to be published.
During his long and active life, Warner received many honors and awards, yet he never spoke of them. What mattered most to him were being a good son, brother, husband, and father, and a loyal, dependable, and caring friend.
Warner Montgomery is survived by his devoted wife, Linda Sosbee; his son, Charles M. “Chai” Montgomery of Reno, Nevada; his daughter, Jyoti Montgomery of Oakland, California; and his nephew Mike Maddock (Tammie) of Columbia, as well as a number of cousins. He was predeceased by his parents, by his beloved sister, Mimi M. Maddock, and his dearly loved fur children, Gorby and Deuce. The family would like to thank the entire staff of the skilled nursing Care unit at Still Hopes and the Prisma Health Still Hopes Hospice Team for their kind, compassionate, and extraordinary care of Warner in his final months. Dr. Hirth, Dr. Jenkins, Freia, Emil, Amy, AJ, Melissa, Crystal, Tarsha, Pat, Patrick, Tammy, Ginny and others – you are appreciated more than you know.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Warner’s memory be made to the Shepherd’s Center of Columbia at Trenholm Road Methodist Church or to Epworth Children’s Home.