Wilson retired in November and was given a dinner by his peers. Monday was the first time that he wasn’t a part of the meeting in 12 years and Commissioner John Garner felt deeply about the coincidence.
“Everything happens for a reason and I feel strongly about it happening today,” he said.
Wilson, 72, who was known to many by Junior has been called a man with a big heart and an unmatchable love for his community.
“I never knew anyone that worked as hard as he did,” said Kenneth Robinette, Richmond County Board of Commissioners chairman. “You couldn’t count the number of people that he helped.”
“He was a trooper and the county doesn’t know what they have lost,” said Commissioner Jimmy Maske.
Commissioner Thad Ussery had been friends with the Wilsons for some time and the loss was personal to him.
“He was a dear friend of mine,” Ussery said. “I’m sure the county will miss him because of his generosity and his connection with the community.”
He reflected on Wilson’s childhood and spoke on the way that he was brought up.
“Junior was raised up hard,” he said. “And he knew how to relate to the people. We will miss him.”
And because of this man the county board, which he worked on for 12 years, held a moment of silence to reflect on the life he lived and those he touched while he was here.
“I enjoyed sitting next to him,” said former Commissioner Pam Dillman of the monthly meetings.
One of Commissioner Peggy Covington’s memories of Wilson is that he sincerely liked people.
“He was deeply concerned about business growth and relationships that moved the county forward; but, he saw and respected the need to continue to work hard on interpersonal relationships.”
“This is a great shock and a great loss to the county,” Robinette said of Wilson’s death. “Not only was he a great commissioner, he was a great friend.”
He not only touched the hearts of those that he sat next to but other county officials as well.
“It is a sad day for myself and the entire Richmond County staff,” said County Manager Rick Sago. “Mr. Wilson was a true friend and supporter to all county employees during his tenure as county commissioner. He understood that public service is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job and helped to make sure we had the resources to do our job and serve the citizens of Richmond County. He will truly be missed.”
Dillman remembered when she was a part of the board that even though Wilson was ill he would call and see is there was anything that he could do to help the community.
“He was a great humanitarian and he worked hard his whole life,” she said.
The farming business meant a lot to Junior and the town of Ellerbe and the news of his death is less than a week from that of Kenneth Rankin, another Ellerbe farmer.
“We lost a big hearted man,” Garner said. “He was generous with his time and his resources. Very few people can do what he did. My heart goes out to both of those families.”
“We lost two great pillars of the community,” Ussery said.
Gold Leaf Farms was something special to the farming community and Ellerbe in general and the produce grown from their farm was distinct.
“His love for farming and healthy foods was one of the things that extended our relationship beyond serving in government,” Covington said.
She recalls that while shopping, she would look at the tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and watermelon just to see if they came from his farm.
“He will truly be missed and I wish the best for his wife Betty,” she said.
“This is a sad time for the community as a whole,” Robinette said.
Staff Writer Hollie Nivens can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 19 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org