William Clegg Culler celebrated his 99th birthday on Jan. 14, 2015. Friends and family gathered at his home in Lynnwoode, North Wilkesboro, to celebrate the occasion on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.
The evening began with a toast to honor and congratulate Culler, and remember stories of his life. Guests were served his favorite meal of honey baked ham and sweet potato casserole, along with red velvet birthday cake. “Happy Birthday” was also sung in his honor.
Culler was born in Wilkesboro on Jan. 14, 1916, to the late John Elam Culler and the late Helsie Minton Culler.
He was one of seven children growing up in Wilkesboro in the early 20th century. Culler has memories of fishing in the Yadkin River and swimming in Cub Creek with his brothers and sisters.
Culler graduated from Wilkesboro High School in 1933. He and his father opened Culler’s Food Market on Main Street, Wilkesboro, in 1946, after he returned from the Air Force, where he served as a supply sergeant in Italy during World War II.
He met his future wife, Dessie Hanks, in 1948 on a double date with friends. They were married in 1951 and raised two daughters, Billie Culler Watson of Fairfax, Va. and the late Cindy Culler Kastleberg of Raleigh. He has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Clegg and Dessie Culler worked for over 50 years together in the market, until they retired in 2004. Mrs. Culler died in 2007 and Culler still resides in their home. Former patrons of Culler’s Market remember Cullers’ famous steaks, cheeses and wines, as well as their “Cleggwich” sandwich.
A story about the Cullers and their purchase of a larger building in Wilkesboro, as part of an auction of buildings owned by Kyle Hayes in 1994, appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Their commitment to the community was recognized in 1996, with keys to the city of Wilkesboro. They were named marshals for the Wilkes Heritage Festival in Wilkesboro in 2001.
Culler is the oldest living member of Wilkesboro United Methodist Church.
At the conclusion of the party, Culler announced, “I can’t wait until next year when I am 100 years old. Now that will be a big party.”