Wilton D. Ashworth, known to all of us as “Skinny,” gave us many moments of reflection and remembrance which the Fuquay-Varina Museums can celebrate. He was a “people person” without question, but he was also a person who loved his home town and wanted to see its history preserved. Skinny did his part to support the museums and our vision!
Skinny visited the museums often. Always he arrived with “hey, y’all” and his signature smile. Each time, we always got answers to whatever puzzle piece we were currently researching. He shared the details he knew of the person’s life and could always tell us the names of sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and even who the individual married. His genealogy archive was immense. Here we have lost his knowledge.
On the Blanchard Hotel, he told of seeing people sitting on the porch overlooking the spring. His description fit the pictures exactly. He remembered the names and locations of stores along Main Street which added much to our record of the locale. Fifty years on Main Street certainly gave him a vast knowledge and memory bank.
When we were taking pictures of Elliotts Pharmacy at its closing, he gave us details of beauty shops and operators located upstairs and he knew the lawyers who looked up and down Main Street from their vantage points in history. He even confessed to being a visitor in a session of the Recorder’s Court which tried a local madam.
On Skinny, himself, we all enjoy the talented backwards ride he displayed on his bicycle for H. Lee Waters while making the 1937 film of Fuquay Springs. He also shows up purchasing his ticket for the Wade Theater. An energetic 15 year old he was at the time! From his memory (augmented by his sister Frances and brother Jimmy) we have the identities of most of the individuals who appear in the film! Although the film is silent, we were given all this added information for posterity.
In our collections , we acknowledge his World War II uniform and picture of himself dressed in the same. One day, upon inspection he declared “ that’s a moth hole!” He promptly searched his closet and came back with a new pair of pants which would “look better.” Ever the clothing store expert, he even purchased his own mannequin to properly display the uniform. Accompanying the uniform, he donated a framed account of the front page News and Observer for August 15, 1945, a copy of Stars and Stripes, and his dog tags.
A veteran of service in the U.S. Army in France, England, Belgium and Germany, he made several trips back to those lands over the years. He possessed a wonderful map with actual sand from Utah Beach which he promised the museums could have eventually. Along with that, he brought us a picture of a comrade, Myron Matthews, who gave his life in France. Skinny donated a picture of himself at the grave site with the Matthews marker for our collection.
Finally, on November 11, 2017, he sat for an interview for our oral history collection. Dr. Leo and I had the interesting experience of hearing his recollections of the Ashworth Store, his Ashworth life, and of town events he recalled. This time he was seated in his apartment as Windsor Point. We are hoping there may be other stories he shared with family and friends which can be added to his file.
Another of the greatest generation of Americans has left our midst. We shall miss him on many fronts: at the store, in family get-to-gethers, at church, in impromptu visits, and especially those phone calls requesting “to pick your brain.” Fortunately he was a wonderful source for us and we express our appreciation that he gave us so much for our history collection and future generations.
Acknowledging contributor and Friend of the Museums:
Wilton D. “Skinny” Ashworth July 6, 1922-June 23, 2020
Author: Shirley Simmons