FINAL SIGN OFF

Catamount Sports Network loses longtime broadcast partner

By DANIEL HOOKER ’01

One of the legendary voices of the Western North Carolina radio airwaves and a longtime supporter of Western Carolina University athletics fell silent on March 14 with the passing of James B. “Uncle Jimmy” Childress at Mission Hospital in Asheville. Childress and the Sylva radio station that he helped found – WRGC-AM – have been a staple of the Catamount Sports Network and pioneered radio broadcasts of Catamount baseball games.

Childress

From right, “Uncle Jimmy” Childress is joined by wife Mickey and son Tony at the 1999 presentation of the Patron Award from the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee.

The Catamounts’ home baseball facility – Childress Field at Hennon Stadium – bears the Childress family name. The playing surface was named and dedicated in April 1978 in honor of Jimmy’s son, Ronnie G. Childress, who was an avid supporter of WCU athletics and a special friend of the baseball program through the radio station until his death in an electrical accident in 1975. Another son, Tony, was behind the play-by-play microphone for several seasons of Catamount baseball. The Childress family established the Ronnie Childress Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1975 to benefit WCU’s baseball program.

The elder Childress was regularly seen – and was a crowd favorite – attending games at Childress Field/Hennon Stadium. Not long before his passing, he wooed the home baseball crowd by singing a song he had written – inspired by WCU’s new leadership team of Chancellor David Belcher and wife Susan Belcher – titled “Cullowhee.” Childress received the Patron Award from the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame Committee in 1999. The Patron Award is presented periodically to individuals who have made a positive impact on the WCU athletics program through their contributions of leadership and/or unique support off the playing field and courts.

Childress also received the university’s Distinguished Service Award in 1987. Additionally, he was selected as a Rotary Club International Paul Harris Fellow. In 1992, he was inducted into the North Carolina Broadcasters Hall of Fame and was previously named the Jackson County Citizen of the Year. Childress found particular satisfaction in doing community service. Among the many community affiliations, he was a member of the Sylva Rotary Club and First United Methodist Church of Sylva. He served previously as board member and president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce; a charter board member of Southwestern Community College; president and board member of the Western Carolina University Foundation Board; and board member of the Community Table.

Childress, who would have been 90 in June 2014, along with Harold Thomas of Asheville, started the Sylva radio station, which began broadcasting on Nov. 8, 1957, using the call letters WMSJ. The station took the responsibility of being Jackson County’s only full-service radio station seriously. The station’s call letters changed from WMSJ to WRGC in the 1970s to reflect the initials of son Ronnie. Childress, sold the station rights to Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co. in January 2002 after a 44-year run as the man behind the locally owned and operated community radio station.

Memorial donations in Jimmy Childress’ honor may be made to the Ronnie G. Childress Memorial Scholarship Fund online at give.wcu.edu. Checks should be mailed to the WCU Foundation, 201 H.F. Robinson Building, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723. 

Student teacher awarded posthumous degree

Reagan Lee Hartley ’14 was about a month away from graduating with her degree in elementary education when her sedan was struck by the vehicle of a wrong-way driver fleeing police in Greensboro on April 3. Police said Hartley died on the way to the hospital. She was 22 years old.

The senior from Willow Spring and 2010 graduate of West Johnston High School was a dean’s list student for several semesters of her college career. At a May 10 commencement exercise, she was awarded her degree, and members of her family accepted it on her behalf.

Hartley had served as a student teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, where her second-grade pupils honored her with a page in their yearbook, with a remembrance wall near their classroom and by presenting books of their artwork and writing to her family. After the presentation, they released red, white and blue balloons, and then planted a tree in her memory.

Faculty and community members have established a memorial scholarship fund. Gifts may be made to the Reagan Lee Hartley Endowed Scholarship Fund online at give.wcu.edu. Checks, with “Hartley Fund” in the memo line, may be mailed to the WCU Foundation, 201 H.F. Robinson Building, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723.

ALUMNI DEATHS

Geneva T. Abernathy ’39April 26, 2014; Gastonia.

William Grady Anderson ’49April 11, 2014; Murphy.

Katherine Brown Barrow ’66April 13, 2014; Asheville.

Mary Virginia Brown ’43May 28, 2014; Asheville.

Freda Hall Bryant ’49March 2, 2014; Asheville.

Glenn F. Carson ’95May 6, 2014; Murphy.

L.C. “Bud” Case MAEd ’67May 1, 2014; Lake Toxaway.

Ima Jean Garland Crisp ’58March 6, 2014; Robbinsville.

Walter Davis ’60March 17, 2014; Alexander.

Alice Remsburg Deitz MAEd ’63Dec. 31, 2013; Williamsport, Maryland.

Max Anthony Garner ’64March 1, 2014; Metter, Georgia.

George R. Garrett ’58March 9, 2014; Wilmington.

Benjamin Robert Gilliatt ’65Feb. 26, 2014; Shelby.

P.O. Goff MAEd ’68Jan. 22, 2014; Avon Park, Florida.

Cara Dianne Gordon ’72 MAEd ’76March 28, 2014; Mount Airy.

Herbert Dean Gouge EDS ’83March 23, 2014; Old Fort.

Carroll Dale Haney ’69April 28, 2014; Canton.

Reagan Lee Hartley ’14, April 3, 2014; Willow Spring

John M. Henzy Jr. ’67March 25, 2014; Mullica Hill, New Jersey.

Nicole Anne Herman ’13March 27, 2014; Franklin.

William Wesley Hill MAEd ’65 EDS ’72Oct. 15, 2013; Demopolis, Alabama.

Susan Ellen Holt MHS ’06April 15, 2014; Swannanoa.

Charles J. “Jim” Hornbuckle ’73May 19, 2014; Cherokee.

Lawrence Carl Howard Jr. ’54 MAEd ’63Feb. 10, 2014; Franklin.

Joan A. Hyatt ’62March 8, 2014; Swannanoa.

Shirley Talbert Janoska ’71April 5, 2014; Delray Beach, Florida.

Dorothy Payseur Justus ’60March 8, 2014; Hendersonville.

Patricia L. Knox ’72 MAEd ’91Feb. 6, 2014; Fletcher.

Charles Nathaniel Lloyd ’76May 23, 2014; Hickory.

Max O. Marsh ’75April 17, 2014; Monroe.

Susan Hicks Millar ’70May 16, 2014; Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

Barry Hamilton Nation ’72May 2, 2014; Garner.

Dennis Raymond Ollis ’03May 7, 2014; Marion.

Joyce Justus Parris MAEd ’76May 25, 2014; Swannanoa.

Michael Joseph Phillips ’72June 30, 2013; Newland.

Elliot C. Pratt ’90March 20, 2014; New Orleans, Louisiana.

Martha Louise Reeves ’69May 2, 2014; Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Max Steve Rhodes ’55March 5, 2014; Raleigh.

Rebecca Staton Rhodes ’75April 23, 2014; Tryon.

Genevieve Coggins Rice ’62 MAEd ’76March 30, 2014; Clyde.

Christine F. Shuler ’47March 7, 2014; Darrington, Washington.

John P. “Jack” Spady ’65March 22, 2014; Gastonia.

Marjorie Ann Stockton ’49April 2, 2014; Fairview.

Roy Thompson MBA ’77April 22, 2014; Panama City, Florida.

Wayne Joseph Tucci ’79March 28, 2014; Marion.

Linda Brock Waldrop ’79April 27, 2014; Marion.

Oliver P. Walker ’82April 25, 2014; Atlanta, Georgia.

Joe Vernon Ware ’56May 6, 2014; North Wilkesboro.

Mary Ann Tahquette Widenhouse ’57April 5, 2014; Cherokee.

Donna Jean Wild ’82May 31, 2014; Hendersonville.

Former N.C. Sen. Carroll W. Wilkie ’50March 20, 2014; Rock Hill, South Carolina.

David Lee Williams ’96March 19, 2014; Franklin.

Edward Lee Woodard ’65May 5, 2014; Richmond, Virginia.

Warren “Bud” T. Wright ’58April 25, 2014; Davidson.

Glory Lou Geyer Zulauf ’88March 24, 2014; Reidsville.

Sidney “Chip” Zullinger III MAEd ’77 EDS ’80April 1, 2014; Manassas, Virginia; and Houston, Texas.

UNIVERSITY DEATHS

Steven H. Becker, information technology staff member, April 13, 2014; Sylva.

James Bryant “Uncle Jimmy” Childress, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award and longtime supporter of WCU baseball; March 14, 2014; Sylva.

Katherine Ann Conner, retired staff member of dining services, March 5, 2014; Tuckasegee.

Alma Phillips Henson, retired staff member of dining services; May 6, 2014; Cullowhee.

Charles John Parris, former employee of police and traffic services, April 26, 2014; Sylva.