Town — and County — Treasures

The alliteration of “Town Treasures” makes for a snappy title for a well-earned honorific. But the roster of seven recipients shows that the Chapel Hill Historical Society wisely seeks excellence beyond town borders to include members of our community county-wide.

The historical society has been celebrating Town Treasures for a decade now. The program has never been limited to Chapel Hill inhabitants. Rural county residents have been named Town Treasures since almost the beginning of the award.

On Oct. 15, a standing-room-only crowd filled the largest meeting room at the library to recognize the 2017 Town Treasures. This year, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle joined Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger in reading the proclamations. Orange County Commissioner Chair Earl McKee also offered his congratulations.

The 2017 Town Treasures are: Lillie Lee Atwater, a nurse who is a staunch advocate for breast cancer awareness and a warrior in the battle against the disease; “Mr. Joe” Fearrington, who created pocket gardens throughout Northside for more than 70 of his 96 years; Ted Parrish, a retired N.C. Central professor, dedicated to civil rights and improving the Northside neighborhood; Stanley Peele, a retired chief District Court judge, who mentored over 40 youth and works to enable them to reach their potential; Jane and Adam Stein, she an adjunct associate professor at UNC’s public health school and he a civil rights lawyer, for their decades of work fighting for social justice; Dr. Tim Taft, an orthopedic surgeon, who helped organize UNC’s sports medicine program, perhaps the first in the country, to care for student athletes; and Norma White, for her innovation and dedication to enabling seniors to age in place safely and for her tireless efforts to get food to people who need it.

The diversity of people is matched only by the diversity of their service. Regardless of their vocation, the Town Treasures were chosen not for what they achieved professionally but for their contributions outside of their careers. The list of awardees highlights the inspirational efforts of people in the community who devote so many non-income-earning hours to making life better for all of us.

The Town Treasures recognition underscores that part of the greatness of Chapel Hill lies beyond its borders and extends into the rural community.

We like to think of Chapel Hill as the center of the universe, but the Town Treasures prove otherwise. They come from all around the county and make life better for all of us. Maybe it’s time for a new name that reveres the work of people throughout the county who draw us closer and make us stronger as a community.

Congratulations and thank you to all of our Town Treasures.
Nancy Oates

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  1. Bonnie Hauser

     /  October 16, 2017

    thanks Nancy. Yes is impressive that rural leaders like Bob Nutter, Bob Strayhorn and Gordon Neville have been included as town treasures. And IMO – our distinction lies in the combination of town/rural/university communities. Maybe our treasures will find a way to unify us.

    Consider that Norma White, who lives in Little River (the Northeast corner of the county), now has a plaque that honors her as a Carrboro Town Treasure. Its not deliberate – but its pretty strange.

    The organizers and board are gracious and interested in looking more closely at this.

    Congratulations to all the town treasures.

  2. plurimus

     /  October 23, 2017

    One additional person worthy of mention in this context is Jane Smith Patterson.

    “Patterson, who lives in Chapel Hill, has been an advocate for equality for women and minorities throughout her life. She is a native of Tabor City and has worked to promote access to technology and broadband communications in rural North Carolina. She served as executive director of the e-NC Authority, an organization with a goal of bringing affordable high-speed Internet access to rural parts of the state.”