Former N.C. House Representative and Watauga native, Gene Wilson passed away on Friday night, surrounded by family at the home on Queen Street in Boone.
William Eugene Wilson was 86.
Gene began life at Banner Elk Hospital. His dad was Calvin Ray Wilson, known as Ray, and the family lived on a small farm in the Silverstone community in northwestern Watauga County, NC. His mother Myrtle Barlow Wilson was a native of the Heaton Community in Avery County.
On May 5, 1929, she went back to Banner Elk in Avery County and gave birth to her son William Eugene Wilson. Gene’s first jobs were working for his dad on the family farm and with a little sawmill operation at age 12. Gene graduated from Cove Creek High School then getting a taste of non-farm work at Belk’s and A&P; at that time both were in downtown Boone. Eventually, he became assistant manager at the A&P grocery store.
Opportunities were slim in the post World War II area in Watauga County. Gene eventually moved to Lenoir, where he lived with his uncle and worked for Harper Furniture Company. Salaries were even higher in the north and Gene, who had recently married his wife of 66 years, Odenia Little, on Aug. 13, 1949 and moved to Cleveland Ohio, to work in 1950. He made bumpers and other car parts that headed to the then thriving automobile industry in Detroit Michigan.
After about two years the young couple, tired of the “big city life” moved back. Gene got a job driving trucks for his father-in-law. As the years went by, four children, two boys and two girls were born. Tim, Kelia Ann, Keva and Travis. A chance for a better paying local job came at Shadowline, where Gene rose to be a supervisor of the cutting department.
His political itch arrived as the filing season for county commission was underway in 1968. Gene won his seat and served until 1976 and was chair for the final two years. Entering politics meant more than just attending commission meetings. He represented the county on a variety of boards. New River Mental Health was one of the first he joined and he served on that board for four decades.
The number of boards that sought Gene as a member grew exponentially and included county Social Services, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, the Health Department and the local prison facility among others.
In 1971, midst of these political activities, he found a new career. He and two others bought a restaurant in Boone that had opened in the mid-1960s and was known as Dan’l Boone Inn. After a few years Gene bought out the partners. The farm boy was now in the restaurant business. By the end of the 70’s Gene was managing a group of 10 restaurants in Watauga and Caldwell counties and Eastern Tennessee and serving as president or vice president of several food service companies.
Gene’s return to political office came in 1985 when he was selected to serve out an unexpired term in the N.C. House of Representatives. Gene served his districts and state with compassion and zeal in Raleigh over the next 20 years. After 40 years in politics, serving his county, region and state he retired from the political scene in 2006.
Looking back over the past 40 years of policies, Gene would always say, “I didn’t do a thing for recognition. I did things because people needed them.”
“I tried to do a good job for this area, and I am still trying to make it a better place for our people. I’ve had a good life,” Gene would say.
Retirement rested gently on his shoulders. His family remained important, as it was all his life. A manager takes care of the day-to-day operations at the Dan’l Boone Inn Restaurant and Gene spent his time at home and in his garden. Gene Wilson never forgot his farming roots as a boy in Silverstone. And we will never forget Gene Wilson.
Gene is survived by his wife, Odenia Little Wilson of the home; two sons, Tim Wilson and wife Alice and Travis Wilson and wife Teresa, all of Boone; one daughter, Keva Sigmon and husband Maran of Boone; four grandsons, Daniel Wilson and fiancee’ Megan Sweeting, Rayland Wilson and wife Krystal, Traver Wilson and wife Lindsey, and Tanner Wilson, all of Boone; one granddaughter, Chelsea Johnston and husband Robert of Boone; one brother, Calvin Wilson and wife Winnie of Boone, and three sisters, Virginia Wilson and husband Clay of Zionville, Phyllis Moretz and husband H.C., and Sandy Wicker and husband Chip, all of Boone. He is also survived by one great-grandson, Dex Wilson, two great-granddaughters, Chanler Hamby and Kaylin Wilson, and a number of nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by one daughter, Kelia Ann Wilson; his father and mother, Calvin Ray Wilson and Myrtle Barlow Wilson, and one sister, Peggy Johnson.
Funeral services for Mr. William Eugene “Gene” Wilson will be conducted Monday afternoon, August 3, 2015 at 2:00 o’clock at Greenway Baptist Church. The body will lie in state, at the church, from 1:00 until 2:00. Officiating will be Reverend Harold Bennett and Reverend Darrell Hobbs. Entombment will follow in the Mount Lawn Memorial Park and Gardens Mausoleum. The family will receive friends Sunday afternoon, from 1:30 until 4:30, at Greenway Baptist Church.
Flowers are appreciated, or memorial contributions may be made to Greenway Baptist Church, 880 Greenway Road, Boone, North Carolina 28607. Online condolences may be sent to the Wilson family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com. Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.
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