January 10, 2015
Date of Service: January 13, 2015
Interment Location: Garden of Freedom
William “Bill” Wilkins, well-known local sports figure and personality, died on Saturday, January 10, 2015 in Hillview Health Center, after an extended illness. His jovial personality and his hearty laughter will be missed by everyone who knew him.
He came to Elizabethton as a professional baseball player with the Chicago Cubs in the late 1940’s and remained here the rest of his life. Bill grew up in Momence, Illinois 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 try outs 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; and 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, Indiana; 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; and 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 7:00 PM on Monday, January 12, 2015 at West Side Christian Church with Mr. Greg Key, minister, officiating. The family will receive friends from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM in the church, prior to the service on Monday; or at the residence at other times.
The graveside service will be conducted at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 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, Marcus Julian, and Mr. Wilkin’s 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, congregation of West Side Christian Church, East River Park Christian Church, VA Medical Center, staff of Hillview Health Center, where he enjoyed the loving care and camaraderie of the staff, especially the CNA’s 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.