William “Bill” Wilkins
Published 11:06 am Monday, January 12, 2015
William “Bill” Wilkins, well-known local sports figure and personality, died on Saturday, January 10, 2015, at Hillview Health Center, after an extended illness. His jovial personality and his hearty laughter will be missed by everyone who knew him.
Bill came to Elizabethton as a professional baseball player with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1940s and remained here the rest of his life. Bill grew up in Momence, Ill., outside Chicago, where he excelled in all high school sports. He then spent three years in the U.S. Army, 745th Tank Battalion, serving in France, Germany, Normandy and Omaha Beach. But, baseball being his passion, he went for tryouts at Wrigley Field and was given a contract with the Cubs. He was sent to Elizabethton and was a catcher in the Appalachian League, made the All Star Team and moved up to their Class A Club.
Deciding to pursue further education, Bill then attended ETSU and upon graduation, he began teaching and coaching, first at Virginia High, then three years at Science Hill. His career also included a supervisory position at Beaunit, ten years at Herman Robinson Vocational-Technical School, and later retiring from the Carter County School System.
As a hobby, “Big Bill” enjoyed broadcasting football and basketball for many years for WBEJ. Coach Wilkins was inducted into the EHS Hall of Fame and was honored with awards from Science Hill as well as TSSAA for his service. Bill was an avid golfer and took pride in acquiring two holes in one. “Coach” was still visited by a group of special friends he previously coached at Science Hill.
In earlier years, Mr. Wilkins served on the County Court and was active in civic affairs, including the Park and Rec, the United Way, Mental Health and Cancer Society. Bill was a family man and adored his wife and children and especially his grandchildren, who were the light of his life. He also loved his church and church family, both at West Side Christian Church and East River Park Christian Church. He served as deacon at both churches, but it was his desire to return to his home church at West Side, among family and close friends.
Mr. Wilkins is survived by his devoted wife of 46 years, Kay Wilkins; two sons, Dan “Leroy” Wilkins and Chuck Wilkins and wife Rebecca; a daughter, Jennifer Wilkins Murphy and husband Kenneth “Butch” Murphy, all of Elizabethton; five grandchildren, Rachael Wilkins, Nashville, Casey and Matthew Wilkins and Eli and Lucas Murphy, all of Elizabethton; and other survivors, including his sisters-in-law, Rosalie Wilkins and Frankie Wilkins, Valparaiso, Ind., Glenda and Dick Oatman and Betty and Eddie Hoover, Elizabethton.
Mr. Wilkins was preceded in death by his parents, Coy and Wilma Fisher Wilkins; three brothers, James, Robert and Charles Wilkins; a sister, Judy Henry; his first wife, Betty A. Wilkins; and a special brother-in-law, Doug “Charlie” Stair.
A celebration of the life of Bill Wilkins will be conducted at 7 p.m. Monday, January 12, at West Side Christian Church with Mr. Greg Key, minister, officiating. The family will receive friends at the church from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, prior to the service, or at the residence at other times. The graveside service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Tuesday, January 13, at Happy Valley Memorial Park. Military Honors will be accorded by the Carter County Honor Guard. Active pallbearers will be Tom Little, T.J. Little Jr., Dennis Wilkins, Jimmy Hamilton, Jim Barnes, Bryce McKinney, Carl Burrough, Mark Swink, Allen Grindstaff, Wes Pearson and Marcus Julian, and Mr. Wilkins’ grandsons will accompany the pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers will be faithful family members, Ferrell Bowman, Graham Spurrier, Gary Scheurman, Rockne Stump, Bill Bays, Charlie Morris, Trey Williams, Junior and Brenda Stanley, Luther and Beverly McKeehan, Curtis Campbell, Ken Arnold, Anthony Townsend, Bill Peterson, Larry and Norma Proffitt, Tyler Hyder, Frank and Mary Shepherd, Mary Roberts, Lori Street, Tommy Horton, Earl and Dora Williams, employees of Burgie Drug and Tetrick Funeral Home, the congregation of West Side Christian Church and East River Park Christian Church, the VA Medical Center, the staff of Hillview Health Center, where he enjoyed the loving care and camaraderie of the staff, especially the CNAs, and Caris Health, with special thanks to Katie, Shannon and Linda. For those that desire, memorials may be given to West Side Christian Church, 1307 West G Street, Elizabethton, TN 37643. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.tetrickfuneralhome.com and signing the guest book or by fax at (423) 542-9499.
Tetrick Funeral Home, Elizabethton, is proudly serving the Wilkins family. Office: (423) 542-2232. Obituary Line: (423) 543-4917.