'One-woman wonder' Chris Whitton dies
By Steve Huffman
Chris Whitton, the driving force behind the restoration of the Salisbury Depot and numerous other community projects and boards, died Thursday.
Friends said Whitton, 74, had been in declining health for a good while.
“She was a one-woman wonder,” said Margaret Kluttz, a former Salisbury mayor who served on numerous boards and committees with Whitton. She described the two as “friends for a long, long time.”
Whitton’s list of accomplishments is long and storied, including stints with organizations such as the Rowan County United Way, the Salisbury-Rowan Arts Council, the Salisbury Board of Education, the Salisbury-Rowan Chamber of Commerce, the planning board of the N.C. United Way, Waterworks Arts Center, the Rowan Regional Medical Center Foundation, the Historic Salisbury Foundation, the Rowan County Tourism and Convention Development Authority and the Salisbury Community Foundation, an organization for which she served as president until her death.
Two of Whitton’s more noteworthy achievements were the Waterworks Visual Arts Center and the campaign to restore and preserve the Salisbury Depot. For that latter effort she was in 1991 awarded the prestigious Clement Cup.
“She was able to pull together the whole community,” Kluttz said. “You worked with her, she became your friend, your true friend. She just connected with people.”
Kluttz paused to reflect on all that Whitton meant to the area.
“As a community leader, it’ll be a long time before she’s replaced,” Kluttz said.
Meg Deese, Kluttz’s daughter, referred to Whitton as her “second mother.”
“She taught me the importance of community,” said Deese, vice president of development for the Foundation for the Carolinas. “She taught me the importance of making Salisbury a better place. She worked effortlessly and tirelessly for so many organizations.”
Jim Hurley, former publisher of the Salisbury Post and chairman of the J.F. Hurley Family Foundation, served with Whitton on boards and in fundraising projects. He said she played an important role in the community’s growth and successes.
“She was a good friend and a vibrant part of a vibrant community,” Hurley said. “The community will miss her very much.”
Jack Thomson, director of Historic Salisbury Foundation, said he came to town long after the Salisbury Depot had been saved, but noted it was Whitton who played a vital role in its preservation.
“She was incredibly influential as far as fundraising for the depot is concerned,” Thomson said.
Whitton was born and raised in Salisbury, then attended Stephen’s College in Columbia, Mo., before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She met and married James Whitton while at UNC. The couple lived in Greensboro, then moved back to Salisbury in 1974 and became members of St. John’s Lutheran Church.
In addition to her community work, Whitton for 10 years owned and operated Copeland Collection, a specialty gift shop.
She is survived by her husband, her son, James G. Whitton Jr., daughters Anne Whitton Bolyea and Jane Whitton Trevey, and three grandchildren.
Following a private burial, a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran Church. The family will receive friends at their home at 1 Dogwood Road from 3 to 6 p.m. today.