This is Carolina: Caretaker of the ‘Sweet T’ trail beautifies it for others, honoring wife

TIC: Cheraw man remembers wife

CHERAW, SC (WMBF) - Her husband affectionately called her “Sweet T” because of the sweetness she brought to his life.

Her name was Teresa, and an untimely diagnosis cut her life short. But even while she was sick, she never forgot who her husband was. And since her death, he’s made sure no one’s forgetting her.

It started over 20 years ago at Arrowhead Park.

“We did the flirting thing around for a while, but I knew there was just something special about her,” Chip Ingram told WMBF News on a park bench at Arrowhead Park.

He was speaking of his six years of dating Teresa, before she became his wife in 1999. He called her his soulmate.

“She was so pretty, she was so sweet and I used to say, ‘Sweet T, you’re my angel from Kentucky,’” Ingram said.

Ingram’s “Kentucky Angel” was his wife Teresa ‘Sweet T’ Ingram. The pair met through friends in Cheraw. Their marriage would be the second for each of them, and they raised three teenagers together.

“She was one of those people that always had good things to say about people, she never had anything bad to say,” Ingram said.

Her character matched her profession. Ingram met Teresa while she taught pre-school. She decided to go back to school at 39 years old to teach full time.

“It was probably one of the proudest days of my whole life, because she did it, she proved to them that she was going to do it and she did it," Ingram said with a smile.

Teresa graduated from Francis Marion University with her family in the audience.

Sweet T’s’ graduation was one of many ups for the next 15 years. Ingram said Sweet T became a beloved 5th grade teacher at Cheraw Intermediate School. She would do her lesson plans on Sundays, and was first to get to school and last to leave, he said.

He and his beloved wife also traveled the world together. But their most traveled path was the trail at Arrowhead Park.

“We walked this trail for over 20 years. She and I walked it, if I wasn’t walking it, she was walking it. At one point in time I remember her walking out here probably 80 straight days in a row. She was like the postman. She was out here, and it was part of her life,” Ingram recalled.

Ingram described his wife as a health nut. Surrounded by greenery and landscaping now, Sweet T loved the trail before it was beautiful. Loyal to the trail and Chip, she didn’t know one day both would be the only ones to bring her back from a path she had no choice but to walk.

“And when school started, I’m noticing she wasn’t doing her lesson plans on Sundays. I noticed that she was not the first to go to school anymore, she was one of the first ones to leave,” Ingram said of when his concerns began.

Sweet T was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011. The diagnosis was devastating.

“I didn’t have a clue. You’re talking about a 55-year-old person. I didn’t ever in my wildest dreams think we would be dealing with something like this,” Ingram said.

He became her caretaker as the aggressive disease progressed. He said he did his best to keep her around friends, and kept walking the path.

“So we just continued walking. It was part of her life, we walked for years. And the thing about Alzheimer’s affecting her, even in the early going, it took her ability to communicate away from her... we would come out here in this park, and she could hear the birds, like we’re listening to right now, and she could hear the chatter of kids and it made her happy. And to see her happy made me happy," Ingram said.

Sweet T passed away May 11, 2018 at age 62. However, her memory and love of her walking path never went unnoticed.

“They decided to honor her by naming this the Teresa Dubree Ingram ‘Sweet T’ Walking Trail,'” Ingram said proudly.

His wife’s beloved trail was named in her honor. Then, Ingram decided, the almost mile long trail needed to truly be as beautiful as his wife saw it.

So Ingram got to work. With the help of family and friends, the Ingrams planted, landscaped and added benches in memory of his loving wife. He’s done it all while raising awareness of the disease that took her.

He’s the caretaker of the Sweet T trail, beautifying it for others, as she did for him. He even has a purple heart tattoo on his arm, reflective of his passion for finding a cure for the disease.

“Yesterday I was blowing off the walkway, I come out here and I pick up trash and I clean the monument. She’s gone, but she’s always with me," Ingram said.

Chances are you’ll see Chip Ingram out on the trail, so be sure to take a second and ask him about his Sweet T.

“You know it just makes me feel good. I go out there and I planted flowers over there last week. People stop by and they say, ‘Hey that’s pretty,’ and I say, ‘That’s my wife, come over here and let me tell you about her.’”

Ingram is looking to add more benches, landscaping, exercise equipment and new restrooms to the trail.

If you’d like to donate to help Chip keep adding to the trail, here’s who to make the check out to:

“Sweet T” Walking Trail Fund c/o The Town Of Cheraw P.O Box 219, Cheraw SC 29520

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