The following people were inducted into the Wilkes County Hall of Fame in a virtual ceremony on May 25.
Dwight David BeckDwight David Beck was born in Wilmington and received a bachelor’s degree in in health and PE from Catawba College in 1987. Beck moved to Wilkes County in 1978, and worked as a teacher and coach at West Wilkes High School for over 35 years. He and is known for his strong practice and work ethic. He was instrumental in implementing the D.R.E.A.M Team (Daring to Role-model Excellence as Athletic Mentors) at West Wilkes High School, a program in which high school students visited elementary schools in their district to teach them to make good choices, alcohol, tobacco and drug awareness, positive sportsmanship and healthy lifestyle choices. He had the longest tenure of any coach at West Wilkes.
Beck remains active in the West Wilkes community and elsewhere in Wilkes, including by still supporting students in need, voluntarily painting fields and mentoring new football coaches. He and his wife, Tonya, attend Millers Creek Baptist Church and have two daughters, Mallory and Morgan.
James Wilber CookJames Cook was born to J.F. and Elizabeth Cook in 1942. He received a business administration degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. James and Beverly Beshears were married in 1964. James joined his father, Flake Cook, at Carolina Auto Supply, a business started by Flake and partner Bob Kite in 1946. After buying out Kite in 1968, James became Flake’s partner and the name was changed to Cook’s Inc. In 1974, James expanded the store and moved it to the current site at West Park, North Wilkesboro. James helped grow Cook’s Sporting Goods into a major area sports retailer with over 45 employees. Cook’s grew from two school accounts to over 100 high school and college accounts.
He supported CareNet of Wilkes, Wilkes Art Gallery, Wilkes Library, YMCA, Wilkes Recovery Revolution and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He was a member of Rotary International and was named a Paul Harris Fellow, the highest Rotary award. He was a founding member of the Health Foundation and the Wilkes Hall of Fame. James died unexpectedly in 2018. The Hall of Fame Governing Board renamed the Youth Leadership Breakfast in his memory. James and Beverly had two children, Mark and Kathleen
Dennis M. HugginsDennis M. Huggins was born in Florence, S.C., and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from East Carolina University. Huggins moved to Wilkes in 1990 with his wife, Jan, when he was promoted from store manager to a position in retail and commercial sales promotions with Lowe’s Companies Inc. After retiring from Lowe’s in 2000, Huggins helped establish the Yadkin River Greenway, restore the old county courthouse and establish the Wilkes Heritage Museum. As the school system’s director of development starting in 2006, he helped raise funds for various initiatives and played a key role in developing a student leadership program in 2006.
Huggins was a founding Wilkes Hall of Fame member, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce ambassador, on the Wilkes YMCA Board, Wilkes Community Foundation president, member of the N.C. Community Foundation Affiliate Advisory-Impact Committee, vice president of the chamber’s Leadership Wilkes, co-chair of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame and Samaritan Kitchen volunteer. He’s on the 12 Note MAP and Whippoorwill Academy and Village boards. At First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro, Huggins was a Stephen’s minister, on the finance committee and chaired the Outreach/Mission committee and Colvard Fund. Since retiring from the schools in 2019, he awards the Dennis Huggins Community Scholarships each year. Dennis and Jan Huggins have two children, Abigail and Andrew.
John and Etta IdolJohn Idol was born in Watauga County and Etta Idol was born in Wilkes. They met while attending Appalachian State Teachers College, where they obtained bachelor’s degrees in education and master’s degrees. John and Etta dedicated a combined 72 years to educating students in Wilkes. They worked to promote in-class and extracurricular activities that were broader and deeper than students previously experienced.
John Idol began his career in 1937, teaching at Lower Elk School in Watauga. He worked in various educational capacities, including as assistant superintendent of Wilkes County Schools. He ended his career as vice president of student services at Wilkes Community College in 1978. He worked diligently for the establishment of WCC, where the board room was named for him. John Idol died in 2005. Etta Idol was a teacher in Wilkes schools for 35 years. As a science teacher, she influenced many students to enter science fields, and many became teachers. She was named first Wilkes Teacher of the Year in 1972. She died Dec. 7, 2020.
John was in the Army in World War II, was master of Mount Pleasant Masonic Lodge and a charter member and patron of Mount Pleasant Chapter No. 67 of Eastern Star, a deacon at Lewis Fork Baptist Church and was on the board of directors of Northwestern Bank and First Union Bank. He was president of the North Wilkesboro Kiwanis Club, Appalachian State Alumni Association, Brushy Mountain Baptist Association and Northwestern Development Association. Etta was a founding and president of the Wilkes County Delta Kappa Gamma. She was a sponsor for N.C. Future Teachers of America. She co-authored a chapter in “Lest We Forget, Volume I” and assisted with “Lest We Forget, Volume II,” which tell the history of the Wilkes schools.
Andrew Franklin KilbyAndrew Franklin Kilby was born in Millers Creek in 1886, and ran a store as a payroll clerk for the Giant Lumber Co. He enlisted in the Army in 1917 and served in Europe. After being discharged in 1919, he came home and was hired to sell Fords by Gwyn Harper, a co-owner of Yadkin Valley Motor Co. and former partner in the Giant Lumber Company. Kilby became a partner of Yadkin Valley Motor Co. in 1930. It started out selling new Fords, Buicks, Overlands, Franklins, Kings, Indiana trucks, and Fordson and Ford tractors. They sold many Ford Model T cars, and had a corral at the dealership for horses accepted for trade-ins. Kilby’s son, Andrew “Bud” Lomax Kilby, joined him in the Ford business after serving in WWII and became a partner in 1948. Bud’s son, John Asbury Kilby joined them in 1974. Yadkin Valley Motor Co. is the oldest Ford dealership in the state and 26th oldest in the nation.
Kilby served on numerous boards and played a key role in establishing Wilkes General Hospital by chairing the hospital building committee and the hospital board. He was a North Wilkesboro commissioner, president of the Kiwanis Club, chaired the Wilkes YMCA board and was on the North Wilkesboro Savings and Loan board. He was a founding member of the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, Oakwoods Country Club and the N.C. Automobile Dealers Association. Kilby was a deacon and served on the pulpit committee at First Baptist Church of North Wilkesboro. He died in 1977.
Ward H. NicholsWard H. Nichols was born in Welch, W.Va., and moved to North Wilkesboro in 1968, shortly after deciding to devote himself to painting full time. His late wife, Ethel Marsh Nichols, was a Wilkes native and he was attracted to the county’s green, healthy landscape. Participating in nearly 200 group shows and 170 solo exhibitions in 92 individual galleries and museums in 23 states, Nichols’ work is in permanent collections of many museums, colleges and institutions in the U.S. and abroad. He has been commissioned by professional societies and organizations to create paintings for print.
At age 90, Nichols’ stamina and creativity shows through his work. He believes in painting each day to continue improving. Nichols is known for supporting other artists. Many Wilkes artists say Nichols helped them improve. He was on the Wilkes Art Gallery board for many years and proceeds from his exhibits helped fund gallery activities and programs. He regularly sponsors the Blue Ridge Overview and other shows at the Wilkes Art Gallery.
Kruger BrothersUwe and Jens Kruger were born in Germany and raised in Switzerland. They began performing on streets of European cities in 1979. They signed a CBS recording contract with their band in 1981. They split up in 1982, with Uwe becoming leader of a country music band and Jens coming to America and playing banjo with Bill Monroe on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1988 they reunited and began to focus on their love of American roots music. The brothers and New York City native Joel Landsberg joined forces in 1989. Landsberg, a classically and jazz trained bassist had just moved to Switzerland. They made their U.S. debut by playing at MerleFest as the Kruger Brothers in 1997.
The trio moved to the U.S. in 2003, and now live in Wilkes. The traditional style of their music gave way to more of their own compositions. They increasingly incorporated European folk and classical music elements and molded it into a unique sound. The Kruger Brothers have performed at festivals and other venues throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. They have performed with many symphony orchestras, often debuting original classical pieces Jens was commissioned to write. They’ve received many national and international awards and have been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. They host Carolina in the Fall in Wilkesboro, as well as an annual music academy in Wilkes that draws participants from all over the world.
Tammy Eller WhitworthTammy Eller Whitworth was born and still lives in North Wilkesboro. She graduated from Meredith College, with a double-major in economics and political science. Tammy began her career in the home improvement industry at a building supply warehouse in Atlanta, Ga., in 1994. She and her late husband, Todd Whitworth, purchased a Window World franchise in Wilmington in 1998. They subsequently opened and operated several more Window World stores in North Carolina and Virginia. In the mid-2000s, Todd moved into the corporate office in North Wilkesboro and was named president. He bought the business in 2007, when his parents retired. When Todd died unexpectedly in 2010, Tammy became sole owner and CEO. One of her first decisions was to form a board of directors and internal advisory council.
Tammy expanded Window World’s product lines and vendor base. Growth was fueled by her strong understanding of consumers and hands-on knowledge of the business model. By 2020, there were over 200 Window World locations in 48 states and the company had been named America’s top national home improvement and remodeling company by Qualified Remodeler magazine for 14 straight years. Tammy believes much of Window World’s success comes from being a national brand with local ownership and a family approach that allows stores to cater to each community’s unique needs.
The company’s charitable arm, Window World Cares, allows Tammy to expand her passion for children’s charities. The seed was planted when Todd and Tammy’s first child, Anna Grace, was born 12 weeks premature and spent the first 51 days of life in a neonatal intensive care unit. Window World Cares has given over $11.75 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It partnered with John Andretti to create an Indy Car named The Stinger in 2011, to commemorate the 100th running of the Indy 500. The Stinger and other items were auctioned, raising over $1 million in a single night to benefit St. Jude.
Window World also supports the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC), which provides free, private air transportation to wounded warriors and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes. Since 2008, Window World has flown over 115 missions and has contributed over $2.5 million in flights and in-kind donations to VAC. Window World launched the Window World Military Initiative (WWMI) in 2020, and was one of 69 companies awarded the “Military Friendly Employer” designation in 2021. WWMI supports the All Veteran Group parachute team and Team Red, White & Blue. Window World has been presenting sponsor of MerleFest since 2015 and is an annual sponsor of the Henry Moore Scholarship Golf Classic and SkillsUSA. It financially supports Wilkes County Schools, Wilkes Hall of Fame, Wilkes County Parks and Recreation, North Wilkesboro’s Concerts on the Deck, Wilkes ADAP, Special Olympics, Blue Ridge First in Families, Children’s Hope Alliance, Carolina in the Fall and multiple benefit golf tourneys. Tammy has been on the Rainbow Center, Barium Springs Home for Children, Wilkes Hall of Fame (founding member), Wells Fargo Advisory and Wilkes Community College Endowment boards.
In 2015, Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment. She is cancer-free today and is an avid supporter of annual mammograms and breast health. She learned that stress was a principal cause of her cancer and now takes time for exercise. Tammy is a member of Celebration Church. Her family includes her fiancé, Chris Bishop, and three children, Anna Grace, a junior at Wake Forest University; Wyatt, a freshman at WCC and Tucker, a sophomore at West Wilkes High. Her parents are Larry and Helen Eller of Millers Creek. Her only sibling, Jamie Eller, lives in Roanoke, Va., with his wife, Jamie, and their children.