The above pictures are of my father, and Ramses the mascot for the UNC Tar Heels. My father was a cheerleader for Carolina in the mid-30s, during the Depression. As you can see, there were not many persons in the football stands, as the Depression had taken its toll on college enrollment all over the country. My Dad entered Carolina in 1933 at the tender young age of 16. Unfortunately, in 1935, my grandfather, also named Ben Witherington, died unexpectedly of pneumonia, forcing my father to return home to Goldsboro and support the family (he had a younger brother and sister, now both deceased as is Dad). Then WWII came along and Dad served in Europe. He only completed his education in the late 40s with more than a decade of interruption.
Besides being an absolutely die hard Carolina fan (he taught me all the fight songs for our team when I was little) he was many other things as well. He was a good Christian man, an Eagle scout, and I always looked up to him. I likewise went into Scouting and became an Eagle scout, as has our son David Benjamin. Dad worked in accounting, for Tomlinson furniture and Factors Inc. in High Point and then later for NCNB in Charlotte. We were always Methodists from Day One (rumor has it my first two words were John Wesley…. though I doubt it). Our loyalties ran deep when it came to faith, and schools, and scouting.
Dad was both a gentleman and a gentle man. I don’t much remember him yelling at me or spanking me, although occasionally I deserved it and got it. It did me no harm at all. I am sometimes appalled at the lack of disciplining of children in our current era. It is partly to blame for why we have so many children that have been spoiled rotten and who have such a strong sense of entitlement, if you ask me.
My Dad lived a long rich life, dying at 92, and he was always supportive of me in my educational and ministerial endeavors. I was the first to get an earned PhD in the family, and the first American Witherington I know of to have become a Methodist minister. Dad was all about hard work and family and faith and fun.
Dad used to take me to the baseball games in Greensboro to see the Greenboro Yankees. I would take my glove and try to catch foul balls. We would eat shelled peanuts, and have a good time watching Tom Tresh or Mel Stottlmeyre and other soon to be Yankee greats play. My Mom was a piano teacher and instilled in me my great love of music. It has been said you become what you admire, and on this New Years Day, I am thanking God for two very good parents who loved me and raised me right, and fortunately enough, my Mom is still alive and doing well. Of course no parents are perfect, but I can hardly see how I could have done much better than I did.
Thanks Dad for the legacy of faith and fun and family. If its true you become what you admire, then I don’t mind that my Mom tells me I seem more like you all the time.