Mary Elizabeth "Beth" Thompson Gutstein's sisters aren't entirely sure why their sister entered the Miss Striped Bass Festival Pageant in 1985, what was her senior year at Manning High School.
"She had been in the Miss Manning High Pageant all throughout high school," said Lanelle McLeod. "She never won the whole pageant, but she would win for the class. Back then, you had to be selected by your home room to compete. I don't know if that's still the case today. I don't know why she competed in the Striped Bass pageant. I guess she thought it would be fun."
Gutstein won in 1985, and her family says her inner beauty was equally as strong as her outer beauty.
"She lit up the world," sister Susan McDonald said. "Everybody she touched loved her. She would help anyone she met. She was the first person to jump in and say, 'What can I do?'"
Although Gutstein died from glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor, in October 2014, her family is remembering that spirit through the Mary Beth Thompson Gutstein Memorial Fund, a scholarship for any eligible Manning High School graduating senior who is in the Golden Pride Marching Band.
"Her whole life, everyone knew her as Beth, until she went off to college," said McDonald. "And when she went to college, everything started with Mary, her first name, so people started calling her Mary Beth, and that's how it stuck. But people back home knew her as Beth."
Beth grew up in the Home Branch area of Clarendon County as one of five children of David "Dickie" and Elizabeth Thompson. She attended Francis Marion University before transferring to Florence-Darlington Technical College. She retired from the U.S. Probation Office in Florence shortly after her second surgery for the brain cancer that ultimately ended her life.
"She was diagnosed in April 2013," McDonald said. "And she just couldn't go back to work after that second surgery. She had two surgeries, along with rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. They tried all sorts of stuff. She was first at McLeod and then ended up at Duke."
McDonald said the family chose the band because Gutstein always had a soft spot for one of her own favorite pastimes at her alma mater.
"She loved Manning High's band," she said. "She played the cornet and the French horn. Even after she graduated, she would go to competitions or come back for high school games and watch them perform."
Gutstein ultimately settled in Hartsville with husband David Gutstein and her four children.
"He was the most amazing person and took care of her better than anyone could have," McDonald said.
McLeod said the scholarship will start out this year at $500. The family will select one recipient, who will be announced during the school's annual Awards Day ceremony later this spring.
"We are open to the possibility of us having a tie, but we've said at least one for this year," she said. "Her husband will be there on Awards Day to present it. We hope that we will get a lot of donations so we can provide more in the future."
To donate to the Mary Beth Thompson Gutstein Memorial Fund, send a check in that name referencing that fund to the Bank of Clarendon, 106 S. Brooks St., Manning, SC 29102.