• 61°

A bench for Peewee: Dixonville-Lincoln Task Force honors a lost leader

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — It’s just a bench, you might say, but it seems so perfectly positioned under the biggest tree in Dixonville Cemetery. You can picture Floyd Kerr sitting there, holding court.

Kerr, who everybody knew as “Peewee,” fashioned a 45-year career with the city of Salisbury’s Parks and Recreation Department and became known to several generations of children.

They often called him “Mr. Peewee.” Over time, Kerr directed activities at the city’s Hall Gymnasium, Miller Recreation Center and, for 14 years, the Fred M. Evans (Lincoln) Pool.

He was a role model, mentor and advisor for many of Salisbury’s young athletes, including basketball standouts Bobby Jackson, Fred Campbell, Bryan Withers and Donald Jenkins.

After a period of declining health, Kerr died last October. The Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project Task Force, of which he was a member, dedicated the cemetery bench in his memory Friday morning.

As the dedication crowd headed over to First Calvary Baptist Church for a reception, the Rev. Clarence Marlin, broke off on the path by himself to visit Peewee’s bench.

The men had attended J.C. Price High School together. “Me and Floyd go way back,” he said. “We had some good times.”

After school, the men would renew their friendship when both were city employees. Marlin used to be a supervisor with the solid waste department. At the reception later, Marlin gave the ending prayer, but before he started he talked about the legacy people such as Kerr have left behind.

“The work that we do means something, especially when we do good work,” Marlin said.

Other benches in the cemetery, the first city-owned African-American cemetery in Salisbury, are set aside for Fred M. Evans and William Peoples, whose recent deaths also represent great losses to the task force and Salisbury as a whole.

Headed by Emily Perry, the task force has divided its Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Project into three phases and is raising funds for the first.

“Dixonville” refers to the cemetery of the former community with the same name, and “Lincoln” represents Lincoln School, where many older residents of Salisbury still have fond memories of attending during the days of segregation.

Phase I of the project will be a Dixonville Cemetery Memorial Walk; phase II, an interpretive walk; and phase III, a restoration of the long abandoned Lincoln School.

Perry announced Friday the project just received $5,000 contributions from the Blanche and Julian H. Robertson Family Foundation and the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation.

But much of Friday’s discussion centered on remembering Kerr, who was 66 at his death. A 1968 graduate of J.C. Price High School, several members of his class attended the bench dedication.

In 2016, Kerr received the Fred M. Evans Community Service Award from the Rowan County Sports Hall of Fame for his leadership in youth sports. He also received the Founders Award from the Price High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Kerr belonged to the Elks Lodge, Swagger’s Enrichment program and the Lincoln-Dixonville Reunion Committee.

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander read a city resolution in Kerr’s honor Friday. Shenita Russell, Kerr’s daughter, and cousin Darryl Alexander spoke on behalf of the family.

Darryl Alexander said Kerr liked to say his full name — Floyd Alexander Kerr III — because he wanted to emphasize the “Alexander” part of his family as much as the Kerr side. He was a highly visible participant at reunions of both families, Darryl said.

Kerr was called “Peewee” because he was born three months prematurely, and the name stuck with him for the rest of his life.

As a boy, Alexander looked forward to visiting Peewee and his brother, James. The Kerrs lived at the end of Green Street on some “creek-front property.” For boys, it was a great place to explore Town Creek and the woods.

The Kerrs had even dammed the creek to provide a swimming hole.

“It really was like going to a little resort,” Alexander said. “… James and Peewee were like brothers to me.’

Though Floyd Kerr was a good athlete, Alexander said, he didn’t play basketball at Price High because he didn’t like walking from the West End to the East End at night after practice or games.

People probably didn’t realize it, but Floyd Kerr was a talented draftsman who attended Rowan Technical College for a time, pursuing that line of work. He came by the talent naturally. His father was a contractor who always had a pencil in his ear.

Alexander said his cousin “was the greatest judge of character I’ve ever known,” and with the recreation department, Peewee treated everyone else’s kids as though they were his own.

“He did a whole lot for the young people of this community,” Alexander said.

Russell remembered how busy her father always was with workshops and running the gymnasium and pool. She recalled fondly how he helped her get ready for summer camp by braiding her hair and swearing her to secrecy about it.

Russell said her father told her countless stories about growing up in Dixonville — the swimming pool, the gas stations, the corner stores and how everyone got along and helped each other.

“We miss him so much,” Russell said.

She then referred back to the bench.

“I’m going to have my special time up there with Peewee,” she said.

Friday just happened to be his birthday.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

Comments

Local

‘Meet the need’: Rowan County Health Department looks to add to vaccination options

Local

Seaford is first woman in county hired for town manager position since the ’90s

Local

Colonial Spring Frolic makes a comeback to kick off museum’s year

Local

Concord City Council wants to name bridge for fallen officer, Rowan native

Education

RSS administration will recommend selling Faith Elementary property to charter school

Business

Inspired by advice from father-in-law, Angela Mills launches her own business in memory of him

Local

Rowan County Democrats re-elect leaders, pass resolutions

Local

Baseball: Memories come alive in Ferebee book

Local

During Child Abuse Prevention Month, local groups reflect on detecting abuse in a virtual world

Business

Biz Roundup: Small Business Center announces spring slate of workshop for business owners

Clubs

Kiwanis Pancake Festival starts Friday

Local

Rowan fire marshal seeks to clear up confusion, worry caused by solicitation letter

Education

Fun every day: Fifth anniversary for Yadkin Path Montessori School

Nation/World

Charles: Royal family ‘deeply grateful’ for support for Philip

News

North Carolina sites to resume J&J vaccines after CDC review

News

Cooper OKs bill offering K-12 students summer school option

High School

High school football: Playoff time means get ready for ‘big-boy football’

High School

High school football: Hornets overpower South to secure playoff spot

Crime

Jeffrey MacDonald won’t be released despite deteriorating health

Business

Amazon warehouse workers reject union in Alabama

Nation/World

Ex-NFL player’s brain to be probed for trauma-related harm after Rock Hill shootings

Education

Duke University to require COVID vaccinations for fall term

Education

Cooper OKs bill offering K-12 students summer school option

High School

High school football: Record night for Pinckney as East cruises; Carson wins thriller in OT