Hall of Honor celebrates five inductees

Apr. 11, 2014 @ 06:10 AM

Former students in the Caldwell County Schools who went on to bigger and better things were honored Thursday night at the 12th annual Hall of Honor induction ceremony, at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center.

For each inductee -- John Christian Bernhardt, Bishop Leonard Bolick, Dr. Lyndon Kirby, Rear Admiral Magruder Tuttle and Dr. James Whisnant -- there was a plaque and a medallion. A second plaque will hang in the Education Center, and a third will be placed in the school of each inductee’s choosing. 

Dr. Jeff Church, co-chairman of the Hall of Honor and emcee for the evening, said, “Caldwell County Schools Hall of Honor was created to recognize distinguished former students of our school system who made significant contributions to their area in their profession and/or their community or our community.”

Pam Pilkenton posthumously recognized Bernhardt, talking about Bernhardt’s legacy as the leader of Bernhardt Furniture, which is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding. She also mentioned Bernhardt’s major stride forward in racial integration.

“Bernhardt Furniture was the first business to take down the segregated signs in the cafeteria and the restrooms,” Pilkenton said.

Bernhardt’s son, Alex Bernhardt Sr., received the award on his father’s behalf.

“I brought two of his favorite employees with me,” Alex Bernhardt Sr. said. “That’s Ann and Nick Curtis. Between us, we’ve got 150 years of service, but we got off work early today to come out here this evening. Maybe he won’t mind that too much.”

John Christian Bernhardt’s third plaque will be placed at Hibriten High School.

Skip Downs presented the award to Bolick, who Downs described as a “wonder vessel of God’s amazing grace and love.”

Bolick told a story about a classmate who was able to drive five nails effortlessly into the tough wood of a locust post for an agricultural exam. When asked how he did it, Bolick’s classmate answered that he brought his own hammer, picked out the sharpest nails and had snuck a bottle of oil under his belt.

“It seems to me that that’s a good metaphor for life in general,” Bolick said. “Life can be challenging. It can feel like we’re trying to drive a nail into a locust post, but I have been so fortunate to have people in my life who have been a good hammer, a sharp nail and a vile of oil.”

Bolick’s third plaque will be placed in Happy Valley School.

Dr. Helen Hall introduced Kirby and spoke about Kirby’s determined pursuit of becoming a scientist.

“Upon his graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill, he called his mother, and he exclaimed to her, ‘Mom, I’m am now a scientist!’ And according to his mother, that was the happiest moment of his life,” Hall said.

Kirby’s third plaque will hang in Hibriten High School.

Dr. Caryl Burns said she searched for the perfect story to describe why Tuttle was a fascinating person, and she discovered that he was known as “King Tut” in the Naval Academy and was given a figurative wagon “to hitch it to a star” by the Lenoir High School yearbook staff.

Jeremiah Price, Tuttle’s great-nephew, received the award on Tuttle’s behalf. Price said that his great-uncle’s legend rests in how he received and in return gave second chances.

“He made a career in the Navy by giving people second chances, by making sure everyone understood that they could be the best that they could be if they just wanted to be the best that they could be,” Price said.

Tuttle’s third plaque will hang at West Caldwell High School.

Lille Melton introduced Whisnant by recounting his time growing up in the rural part of Caldwell County. When he took to the podium, Whisnant took the time to thank the Caldwell County Public Library’s bookmobile for coming out into the countryside and allowing kids who could not get to the library to check out books. He also recognized the importance of Caldwell County’s educators and thanked each of his teachers by name.

“Don’t put off thanking a teacher. While we can, we should give thanks to all of our teachers,” Whisnant said.