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Salisbury woman gives to Christmas Happiness in memory of longtime friend, stranger

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Dona Lyerly Wilson was so inspired by two local men who lived in Salisbury, both of whom died this year, that she gave a Christmas Happiness contribution in memory of them.

Wilson, who grew up in Salisbury, attended Salisbury High School with William Peoples. Peoples, a longtime community advocate, died in March. She also gave in memory of Salisbury resident James “Pete” Sherrill, who died in April. Wilson said she didn’t really know Sherrill. Wilson, who recently moved to Hickory, contributed $50 to the fund.

The Christmas Happiness Fund has been around since 1952 and began after Salisbury Post editor Spencer Murphy asked the Rowan County community to donate so that local children who would not have received much for Christmas could get some gifts.

The Salisbury Post collects the donations from the community and turns them over to the Salvation Army. The local organization distributes gift cards that are used at a local business by eligible families.

Peoples and Wilson graduated in 1973 and remained close friends.

“I knew how important children were to him. His community activism motivated me to give,” Wilson said.

Wilson often saw Sherrill throughout town and in local restaurants Thelma’s and Village Inn Pizza.

It was at Village Inn Pizza that she struck up a conversation with Sherrill. She said she saw him sitting by himself and she was eating by herself so she asked if she could join him.

They struck up a good conversation, but it wasn’t until she saw he’d died that she learned about his life by reading his obituary. Sherrill was a farmer and worked at Cone Mills until he retired in the 1990s. He also played baseball in the Negro League.

“After I read his obituary, I see why I was drawn to him. I could tell he had a good heart,” Wilson said.

She said she gives to the Christmas Happiness Fund because, “it’s just a good way to give in the community for those who really have a need.”

Any donation given at this time will help with last-minute additions to the list of those in need and begin the fund for the next year.

Contributions to Christmas Happiness may be delivered to the Salisbury Post, 131 W. Innes St., between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or mailed to Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund, P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, N.C. 28145-4639. Make checks payable to Christmas Happiness Fund and indicate how you want your donation listed.

Today’s contributions are:

In loving memory of Sidney and Scottie Blume by Betty — $50

Rowan Doll Society — $60

In memory of Howard Barbour, Bill Hardister, Bill Bostian, Ellis Fisher, John Miller, Stewart Cuthrell, C. L. Eagle Jr., Mack Wood, Gene Queen, Steve Shirley, and Ray Flemming by Salisbury Bassmasters — $250

In memory of Clayton, Jim and Viola Morris by Rod Morris — $50

In memory of Marcus and Tiny Fisher — $50

In memory of Margaret and Timmy Clifton — $50

In memory of William C. Peoples Jr. and “Pete” Sherrill by Dona Lyerly Wilson — $50

In honor of Everyman’s Bible Class; First Presbyterian Church; Vic Bost for his leadership and all of our many Great Sunday School teachers, past and present by Johnny Safrit — $100

In honor of Salisbury Post readers by E.D. and Elizabeth Cook — $200

Total — $860

Running total — $47,103.03

 Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.



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