What I could never have imagined happening when we moved to Western North Carolina was the sort of attachment that has taken root as time has passed. I grew up a military brat, and so when I left for college, I didn’t really consider any place home. That kind of attitude brings with it a certain freedom, but it also imbues one with a kind of drifter’s mentality, a detachment to place that is the opposite of the way so many people in these mountains are raised.
One of the reasons I now feel so at home here is because so many people here have such a passion for their community, their land, or both. I now have a home, and I’m proud my kids are all from the mountains. Just this weekend we were at a dinner party in Upper Crabtree. As I sat on the porch and talked with the property owner, it seemed that the farm was a part of him in a way that was very simple and yet at the same time very deep.
All of this came to mind this week as I was looking for a way to publicize the Mib and Phil Medford Endowment Fund. Philann and Houck Medford, in memory of their father, Phil, and their recently deceased mother, Mib, started this endowment. Its proceeds will be used to make improvements to the town of Waynesville.
As a former editor of The Mountaineer (seven years) and only publisher of The Smoky Mountain News (13 years), I’ve covered Haywood County and Waynesville for two decades. More relevant, perhaps, I’ve worked in downtown Waynesville for all of those 20 years. And in that time, I’ve never seen a family more dedicated than the Medfords to making Waynesville a better place to live. No one else is even close. And they did it for all the right reasons. They not only did not seek a pat on the back or a thanks for their work, they shunned it.
Many saw Phil and Mib working any of several garden spots in and around Waynesville over the decades. That was one of their passions, and Philann still dutifully follows in their footsteps.
At a reception a couple of weeks ago, former Downtown Waynesville Association Director Ron Huelster recalled the “suggestions” he used to get from Mib after she became an advocate for downtown revitalization.
“It’s safe to say that in those early days I got a phone call daily from Mib. She excelled at communicating by phone,” he quipped.
“They have made a tremendous impact. They did their work,” Huelster said, choking up as he spoke to a standing room only crowd that gathered for the announcement of the endowment.
Former Town Manager Lee Galloway said he once got a call from Mib about a parking garage in Charleston, one she wanted the town to look at and model its own after. Galloway was telling her that Charleston had more money than little Waynesville when Mib, ever polite, cut him off: “Lee, don’t settle for second best.”
Don’t settle for second best. As they advocated for good planning, smart design, walkable communities and roads, as they rolled up their sleeves and literally got dirty making Waynesville beautiful, the Medfords set an example that will be impossible to emulate.
This endowment, though, will forever remind those of us who witnessed Mib and Phil’s passion for Waynesville of what it means to live with a sense of place, to love a community and spend your life making it better. Thanks Mib and Phil, and way to go Philann and Houck.
Anyone can contribute to the Mib and Phil Medford Endowment Fund, which will be used to make improvements to the town of Waynesville. The Fund is for perpetuity and growth of the Fund is such that the principle is never touched. Contributions can be mailed to the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, which administers the Fund, at P.O. Box 1888, Asheville, NC, 28802.