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By Pete Zamplas- Eleven illustrious locals have joined the Henderson County Walk of Fame for a “significant, lasting and positive contribution” to county life.
Also honored are Frank Ewbank as an influential school board member and founding trustee of Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC), Hendersonville Housing Authority founder A.S. “Bert” Browning Jr., Grace Etheredge who helped launch Opportunity House, Eleanor Cosgrove who was the BRCC foundation’s director emeritus, and her husband Dr. Kenneth Cosgrove who helped create Pardee Hospital’s initial Intensive Care Facility and the local hospice.
They include Albert Victor “Al” Edwards, the longest (37 years, starting in 1932) serving mayor in state history, Flat Rock Playhouse founder Robroy Farquhar, local historian Louise Howe Bailey, esteemed fiction writer Robert R. Morgan, Josiah Johnson of the farming Johnsons, and Georgia Bonesteel who quilted on public television and promoted mountain arts and crafts.
Walk of Fame refers to the ongoing outdoor tribute with commemorative markers for these 11 people, and the inaugural batch of 17 individuals such as Judge C.M. Pace (1845-1925). Pace was clerk of court/probate judge for 57 years, staring in 1868. The initial group was chosen by a panel in late 2016, and inducted last year.
The stones are in the landscaped strip along sidewalk on the western side of King Street, by the public parking lot between Third and Fourth avenues. The markers list a field of endeavor for the honoree.
Fields eligible for nominees are government, business, industry, agriculture, medicine, education, religion, human services, and cultural arts.
Walk of Fame founder Tom Orr quoted local native poet Lila Ripley Barnwell (1863-1961): “Let us not forget our obligations and or gratitude to those sturdy pioneers — men and women of daring, of courage, of resolution, of vision who made possible for us the blessings and advantages we today enjoy.”
Nominations are open for two more months until early September for the third class, for the class of 2019, with as many as ten outstanding citizens selected a month later. Nominators should use the online two-page form.
They must describe impact of the proposed honoree’s contributions on local quality of life, and assert why they are significant and still relevant today. It helps to list a family member of the nominee, so the committee can get a photo and further information.
The Walk of Fame Committee limited inductees to ten per year starting with the second class which is this year (2018), and chose from about 30 people nominated.
Mr. and Mrs. Cosgrove are in a combined induction. Thus, 11 people are in the ten latest inductions. They were honored at a banquet May 6 in Carolina Village’s dining hall. The prime rib dinner and reception were donated by the Carolina Village Retirement Community.
Educating youths in school about the inductees is the next huge step, Orr noted, while funding the Walk of Fame is another priority. Civitan Club donated $1,000 to the cause earliest this year, historian Orr said. The City of Hendersonville and Henderson County each provided $1,500 in seed money.
The committee’s new head is now Kaye Youngblood. She succeeds fellow retired Hendersonville High School teacher Orr. Other committee members have recently been Virginia Gambill, Jean Huggins, Ronnie Pepper, Madeline Royes, and Evelyn Sizemore.
Dr. Amy Pace, who helped Orr get the project off the ground, said honorees displayed “hard work, courage, caring and fortitude to leave an enduring legacy.” Commissioner Mike Edney, who also was on the project’s steering committee, cited “major contributions” in so many arenas. Orr noted there were no quotas to split up inductees by fields. Gambill said it was a good challenge to choose between many worthy dignitaries.
Robert Morgan told The Tribune he is quite impressed with how the Walk of Fame honors locals from various walks of life and eras. He said he is very grateful for Henderson County for educators’ early influences on his writing aspirations, and for beauty of the land and people in inspiring his greatest works.
In turn, he hopes as a role model he and others in the Walk of Fame can “inspire young people” to strive to achieve. He told the banquet crowd that local youth are “encouraged to be writers and in the arts.”
Morgan’s fictional bestselling novel entitled Gap Creek made Oprah Winfrey’s book club in 2000, a year after he wrote it, and vaulted him to national acclaim.
Morgan has taught English and creative writing at Cornell for 47 years. His own writing style is hailed for precise imagery and language, and in casting a positive light on mountain folk. BRCC English instructor Katie Winkler quoted Morgan about locals’ “wisdom in their heads, and humility in their hearts.” Morgan has said he relished simple joys of farm life in his youth, such as playing in the creek or seeing leaves soar up the ridge on a windy day.
Indeed, Gap Creek was about this rural area’s challenges, and hard-working farming character Julie Harmon who Morgan said is based on his maternal grandmother. Morgan has said he urges his “living fiction” students to not transcribe actual events exactly as they happened, but instead to create real characters and storyline through a sequence of realistic and “vivid details.”
Morgan grew up in Green River Valley, in southern Henderson County near Gap Creek which is just across the S.C. border. He stated the valley is “the real focus of my poetry and much of my fiction.” The setting is about poor but down-to-earth families on “a square mile of land on the banks of the Green River, bought by my great-great-grandfather Daniel Pace in 1838.” His Welsh ancestors’ haunting family legends are part of his cultural upbringing, and immersed into his writings.
Morgan won the Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature in 2007. Morgan, who turns 74 this year, has had 12 books of his poetry, nine of fiction and three nonfiction all published.
He was part of the History Channel docudrama “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen,” airing in March.
Georgia Bonesteel told the banquet crowd that “in traveling for the last 40 years, I have taken Henderson County with me.” Her “Lap Quilting with Georgia Bonesteel” demonstration show was on quilting and patchwork techniques from across the globe.
She is credited with enhancing lap quilting, perhaps inventing it. It is portable, by not using a hoop or other frame to stretch fabric across. Her longtime show began in 1979, and was on public television station UNC-TV. Within four years, it reached 120 major PBS stations. It was among earliest how-to shows broadcast nationwide. Its reruns still air. She hosted original TV programs on quilting for over a quarter century.
She was born Georgia Anne Jinkinson in Iowa, in 1936. Her birthday is soon — July 21. She was an avid seamstress, like her mother. Georgia has a home economics degree. The Bonesteels moved here in 1972. Her husband Pete ran Bonesteel Hardware, and she opened a quilt section in it in 1982.
Mrs. Bonesteel is in the Quilters Hall of Fame. She wrote eight books on quilting, over 27 years. She was International Quilt Association president, founded the WNC Quilters Guild, and taught at BRCC. She enjoys instructing, to help carry on quilting. Her son Paul Bonesteel is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, including on quilting.
Robroy MacGregor Farquhar (1911-1983) started Flat Rock Playhouse, the state’s official theatre since 1961 and a leading theatric education center. The English native first led a touring company, based in New York City, of which he once said “we’re just a bunch of vagabonds.” That nickname stuck. Vagabond Players debuted in NYC in 1937, and then in this area in 1940. As the light-traveling Vagabond mascot, he is photographed holding a stick over his shoulder with a small knapsack at its end.
FRP plays were performed in a converted mill at Highland Lake, then at Lake Summit. In 1952, FRP set up on the current “Rock” — initially in a big top tent Robbie’s wife Leona patched up whenever heavy rains damaged it. Early seasons were summer only with 10 shows in 11 weeks from July 4 to Labor Day, Steve Carlisle noted in tribute to Farquhar. Now the season is nine months. Carlisle acted at FRP as early as 1971, at times with Robbie. Robroy turned over FRP management to his son Robin, who like Robbie also directed.
Born Robert William Smith, Robroy’s stage name tacks his mother maiden’s name Farquhar onto names that honor Scottish rebel legend Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734).
Mayor A.V. Edwards (1891-1971) is another impressive local figure for decades. The World War I veteran and hardware merchant was Hendersonville’s mayor for a state-record 37 years, starting in 1932 amidst the Great Depression.
He eased hard times by launching the Mayor’s Club for impoverished boys. Each Saturday morning, the boys went to City Hall’s fourth floor for free breakfast, hot showers, a prayer by the mayor and his pep talk. Then they each got a ticket to see a movie. Edwards started a local Boy’s Club in 1934.
Edwards boosted tourism and the local economy. In Florida, he marketed Hendersonville as a mountain resort to escape summer heat, bugs and gators.
The N.C. State alumnus led modernizing of infrastructure. He was all for building Pardee Hospital (which opened in 1953), Asheville Regional Airport that opened in ’61 and Interstate 26’s 14-mile bypass of Hendersonville that debuted in 1967 and spurred Four Seasons Boulevard as a gateway. During WWII, crop farming, food and industry rebounded such as with textiles and lumber. Jobs rose as General Electric, Kimberly-Clark, DuPont and other area industry arrived — mostly in the Fifties, to join the Ecusta mill (1939) in Brevard.
“Mayor Edwards ran the show” in town before there was a city manager, Hendersonville Mayor Pro Tem Ron Stephens said. The strong mayor system had the mayor as supervisor of city departments, chairing elected reps, and as police judge and juvenile judge. His successor was Boyce A. Whitmire.
Edwards was the typical strict father but also jovial and sang at home, recalled his granddaughters Peggy and also Marcia Mills Kelso who are both in their nineties.
Dr. Kenneth Cosgrove (1920-2009) was an internist, a heart specialist for over a half-century and starting locally in 1953. He was pivotal in establishing the first Pardee Intensive Care Facility, and securing the first defibrillator in WNC to Pardee’s emergency room. Ron Stephens noted these were huge gains since days of one emergency table and “primitive” surgery. Dr. Cosgrove started and ran what is now Four Seasons Hospice. He helped develop Blue Ridge Community Health Center for lower-income patients.
He lived out his finals years in Carolina Village, which is fitting. He envisioned and helped found Carolina Village, which has three-phased continuing care and earned national honors. It opened in 1974, and is still expanding facilities. Its CEO, Kevin Parries, lauded Cosgrove for lasting inspiration. “We have the same vision, mission and passion that he had.”
Mrs. Cosgrove (1926-2002) led BRCC fundraising, jumping its annual donations from $14,000 to $200,000. BRCC opened its campus in 1969. As a trustee, she fostered its evolution into a college.
Frank Wyttenback Ewbank (1916-1997) also was instrumental in BRCC’s early expansion of funds and facilities. As the school foundation’s chairman, he led the way for raising over $1.25 million and affording the move to the current campus in East Flat Rock. In 1969, he was a founding trustee.
He was school board chairman for Hendersonville for nine years, then was overall vice-chairman once the city and county school systems merged in ’93. Ewbank was “brilliant, wise, innovative” and eloquent, Charlie Byrd recalled. Byrd was city school superintendent when Ewbank ran the city school board. Byrd said Ewbank set high goals, and would say “We want to be way beyond average” in academic achievement.
Ewbank was into history, often quoting Thomas Jefferson, noted Byrd and Ewbank’s son-in-law and business head successor Spence Campbell. Spence’s wife Marianne, Frank’s daughter, was a librarian. She recalled her father starting topical dinner discussions and that in public, “He loved a good debate.” Frank II said his father “tolerated others” and their views very well.
Frank Ewbank worked for his father Ernest Lucas Ewbank’s Ewbank & Ewbank Insurance, which formed in 1897, starting as a clerk in 1945 and later succeeded him at the helm. Frank’s brother Harry and later Frank’s eldest son Frank Arthur Ewbank, now 72, worked in both the family insurance and real estate businesses.
The elder Ewbank supported several non-profits. He was the first recipient of the Sauer Award from the Community Foundation for philanthropy. “Mr. Ewbank did not act above others,” Pepper recalled.
Ewbank graduated from UNC-CH in 1937. His degree was in chemical engineering. He was an exchange student in the ancient (founded in 1457) University of Freiburg in Nazi Germany, visited Berlin in 1938 after Germany annexed Austria in that spring, and brought home a swastika-clad red banner as a souvenir before the Nazi’s oppressive ways were clear to this country, according to Frank II.
The Ewbanks had Earle Stillwell design a new office building for insurance and realty businesses at 408 N. Main in 1923-2004, with an ornate and spacious interior. Ewbank served in WWII in the Army. Earlier he worked in insurance in Philadelphia, his wife Eleanor’s home city.
Josiah Johnson (1884-1978) helped farmers prosper. He opened Hendersonville’s first stockyard in 1941, a packing house in in ’45 then Western Carolina Auction market also at King Street in 1950. This was farmers’ hub to sell cattle and vegetables at premier prices, to markets across the East. It relocated in 2002. Josiah and his brother Preston Jr. were the first to truck oranges and lemons into this area, and they shipped produce to Greenville, S.C.
Their business began in the Forties, and is into its fourth generation since then and eighth overall in farming going back to Irish immigrants. Josiah raised 13 children. His daughter Nancy Harrison told the crowd about Josiah, who lived to age 94.
Two of Josiah’s sons were leading green bean growers of the Carolinas. His son Pete Johnson Sr. founded Johnson Farms in North Carolina in 1973. That led to Pete’s son Kirby Johnson starting Mountain Bean Growers (and tomatoes), in Mills River in 1998. It is now Flavor 1st Growers & Packers, with Johnson kin Brian Rose a co-owner. Pete Johnson Jr. has been in organic produce. Kirby has described Josiah as very “business-oriented.”
Bert Browning, Jr. (1900-1997) was appointed Hendersonville Housing Authority’s executive director in 1961, after helping form HHA for affordable housing. He ran Kalmia Dairy, which processed dairymen’s milk and also produced ice cream. He began that soon after moving here in 1922. He headed the N.C. Dairy Products Assoc. in 1954.
He then was a noted builder. That was in his blood. His family moved to Panama in 1906 when he was six. This was so his father, a construction engineer, could help build the Panama Canal. Bert Jr. lived to age 97 — longest of newest inductees.
Grace Etheredge (1905-1993) was a local artist, who taught art classes. She helped found Opportunity House, longtime center for arts and crafts instruction for senior citizens. “Opp House” emerged out of the Art League of Henderson County, which Etheredge co-founded in 1960 and led for years.
Many of the above historic figures were chronicled by historian Louise Howe Bailey (1915-2009). She penned nine books on local history. She was a columnist for 42 years. She often wrote of Flat Rock’s historic link to Charleston, S.C. wealth such as her great-great grandfather Judge Mitchell King (1783-1862) who was an early (since 1830) summer resident here.
Louise’s father William Bell White Howe III was a doctor, and so was her husband Joseph Bailey. Her degrees include in library science from Columbia in NYC. She was on boards of the local library, BRCC Foundation, and Historic Flat Rock. The Henderson County Heritage Museum named an exhibit space as the Louise Howe Bailey Room.
The Walk of Fame’s inaugural 17 honorees are, in alphabetical order: Joseph E. “Jody” Barber, Mary B. Barber, Dr. J. Stephen Brown, Francis Coiner, Kermit Edney, R. Robert Freeman, Donald J. Godehn, Sally M. Godehn, Clyde Jackson, Ernest L. Justus, William McKay, Theron Maybin, Dr. P.J. Moore, Columbus “C.M.” Pace, James J. Pilgrim, James M. Stokes, and Boyce A. Whitmire.
For info on nominating a person for the third Walk of Fame class, check online at: http://www.hendersonvillenc.gov/walk-of-fame-committee.