By Jesse Wood
Sept. 17, 2013. Two worthy Avery County citizens – Jack Wiseman and Dr. Bill Tate – were inducted into the Martha Guy Hall of Legends during the second annual induction ceremony at the Hugh Chapman Center for Families last Sunday. The event was sponsored by the Williams YMCA of Avery County.
Nancy Morrison, a Hall of Legends committee member, said the award is given out to those who have a made a significant difference in the community through the course of many, many years. She added that she has known both Wiseman and Tate all her life.
“Both of these men have given back to the community and have served on almost every board imaginable, been members of every organization in the county and spent many, many years adding and contributing significantly to causes that have bettered Avery County citizens,” said Morrison, who introduced Wiseman at the ceremony.
Wiseman of Newland is a local tree grower and operates Linville Falls Winery, while Tate of Banner Elk is a physician who has served Avery County for nearly four decades.
Reached on Tuesday, Wiseman said the recognition came as a surprise.
“Well, it was an hell of an honor,” Wiseman said.
While Tate wasn’t available to talk on Tuesday afternoon and Charlie Baker, who introduced Tate at the ceremony last Sunday, couldn’t be reached either, Morrison wrote about Tate briefly in a preview of the event in the Avery Journal-Times.
“Through the years, Tate has earned an outstanding reputation as a fine surgeon and he continues to minister to the medical and surgical needs of a large number of Avery County citizens. Tate has promoted “all things Avery” and has served on many boards and organizations helping Avery County and its citizens.”
The Hall of Legends came about last year when Morrison and John Phillips, both committee members on the Hall of Legends, were simultaneously talking to Jim Richardson, a former director of YMCA, about having a local hall of fame. While Phillips, who owns Avery Tire and was a football star at Clemson University, was pondering an athletic hall of fame, Morrison was thinking more along the lines of a community member hall of fame that would include athletes as well.
Ten members of the community were honored in 2012, which was the 100th year anniversary of Avery County. Those people included John Blackburn, Addie Barrier, Tommy Burleson, Bertie Burleson, Sam Ray, Sam Cartner, Rachel Deal, Martha Guy, Sherman Pritchard and Juanita Shoemaker.
More folks came out for the 2013 Hall of Legends than the 2012 Hall of Legends, and if this trend continues, Morrison noted that event may have to be moved to another location to accommodate all of those in attendance.
“I thought the event was just an absolutely incredible success,” Morrison said. “It was packed. It was perfect. It couldn’t have been any better.”
See photos of the event below.
Morrison read the following about Wiseman at the ceremony:
By Nancy Morrison
Jack Wiseman is an Avery County native born in Crossnore, North Carolina, more than 80 years ago and, although he physically left the High Country after he finished school, his heart never did. He always had a plan in the back of his mind – a plan to return home and give back to the people who gave him his start in life and nurtured him into adulthood.
Jack’s early years were spent in the lower end of Avery County in the Spear area. When his mother relocated to California, Jack remained with his grandparents who sparked his early interest in the winemaking process. Jack fondly recalls his “Grandmother Ida” teaching him to make wine when he was only eight years old.
Jack attended Riverside Elementary School. After elementary school, he went to Cranberry High School and occasionally worked in an old country store in Spear (where he met “moonshiners and bootleggers,” he says) to earn some spending money. All that changed when Crossnore coach Asa Reese and teacher/dorm parent Walter “Pop” Jarvis saw Jack and several other boys playing tag football in their spare time and decided Crossnore High School athletic department needed them. Reese and Jarvis arranged for the boys to live in a dorm on the school campus and the Crossnore High basketball team gained some “awesome” players! Jack credits Pop Jarvis, a staunch Christian with a great love for kids, with turning his life around. He says he would have landed in a lot of trouble had it not been for Pop’s guidance.
Jack finished high school at Crossnore and, in the fall of 1952, he joined the army. He was first sent to Japan for BAR training. He became an infantryman and a medic. In the spring of 1953, he was sent to Korea where he was the only medic in his company. Jack is understandably proud of his service as a medic in the Korean War and says he was located very close to the site where the cease-fire treaty was signed when the war ended in July, 1953.
When Jack got out of the service, he returned to Avery County and attended Blanton’s Business College in Asheville for one semester. He quickly lost interest and decided to go to California to visit his mother. He liked California and spent the next six years there working as a sheet metal worker in the shipyards and finishing junior college. At night, he got extra work cleaning buildings in the area. At the shipyards, he met Italian and Portuguese workers who liked to make their own wine. On weekends, he spent time visiting various Napa Valley wineries where the winemaking process again stirred his interest. Also, at one point, a friend talked him into accompanying him to Oregon where they cut Christmas trees and took them back to sell in the Bay area.
Jack eventually returned to Avery County in 1960 to care for his aging grandparents, but he soon found it was hard to make a living. So he moved to Charlotte and started his own janitorial business, having learned how in California with his part-time job cleaning buildings. When he sold his business 15 years later, he had 300 employees.
In 1962, he married JoAnn Aldridge, also an Avery County native, who has been his helpmate and partner for over 50 years. Together they have reared two sons and a daughter and now have six grandchildren.
During the years the Wisemans lived in Charlotte, Jack says they came back to Avery County every time they had some extra money and bought parcels of land. Jack had a dream – two dreams, actually. He wanted to grow Christmas trees and he wanted to grow grapes for winemaking. Jack says people laughed when he talked about growing Christmas trees. In 1962, he bought 5,000 seedlings and got Phil Johnson to plant them. By 1966 or 1967, he was planting 100,000 seedlings. He started selling trees to big box stores. Lowe’s Home Improvement started buying from him 26 years ago and bought 37,000 the first year. Now Lowe’s buys over one million trees from Jack’s Christmas Greens business in Newland. The Wisemans currently own 22 farms with a million and a half Christmas trees growing on them.
Jack says he kept making a little wine personally through the years, envisioning a time when he could try out his ideas on a larger scale. Twenty-five years ago, he sent off soil samples to New York for analysis because he thought the North Carolina High Country had the perfect soil and climate to support a grape growing and winemaking industry. All it takes is a trip to Jack’s Linville Falls Winery to see just how right he was. The soil in Avery County grows varieties of grapes that produce drier wines similar, according to Jack, to the wines produced in France.
Thirteen years ago, Dr. Wolfe planted hybrid grapes in Banner Elk and got things started. But Banner Elk was the cold winter skiing area. Crossnore and Linville Falls, however, were the warmer garden spots of Avery County and Jack thought grapes would be easier to grow in these areas.
Jack’s Linville Falls Winery is a 40-acre fruit farm growing grapes, apples, blueberries and other fruit. Seven years ago, Jack planted 1,000 vines and – thankfully, Jack says – they grew! He now has over 3,000 vines and more are added all the time.
The Linville Falls Winery, which opened officially in October of 2012, has won the East Coast gold medal for its blueberry wine and the silver for Cherry Bounce and, with the addition of Trillium, these wines took three bronze medals in Florida recently.
Although Jack Wiseman is a very busy man with all his business enterprises, he always finds time to give back to the community and the people he loves. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Walter “Pop” Jarvis Scholarship Fund that has provided $1,000 college scholarships each to more than 80 Avery High seniors over the past 11 years. This fund’s primary moneymaker is the annual “Pop” Jarvis breakfast held each year at the Crossnore Baptist Church where Jack has been a member since 1959.
Jack has also served on many community boards and has worked with a number of organizations, including the Avery County Planning Board and the YMCA and is a trustee at Mayland Community College.
As one of two 2013 inductees into the Martha Guy Avery County Hall of Legends, he is a man who is truly a legend in the minds of the many people who love him.