Tellico Village residents took time over the past month to reflect and honor the life of one of the Village’s original members.
Worth Wilkerson, co-founder of The Connection, passed away June 23. He also contributed to the Tellico Village Property Owners Association’s first newsletter, The Hawk.
“He was an amazing fellow,” Martha Wilkerson, wife, said. “He was very meticulous, very organized. I am finding that out right now as I’m going through most of these files. He was an excellent writer.”
Worth’s career in news writing began as a teenager when he helped cover local high school sports.
“Worth started out in the newspaper business early on, I guess, in high school and college,” Martha said. “He went to junior college, Brevard College, and he covered the sports there and was a sports writer for their basketball team. He was always interested in sports. From there, junior college, he went to the University of Alabama for journalism and learned all the things of journalism.”
Following graduation, Worth picked up his first job as a reporter for the Anniston Star in Anniston, Ala.
“I can remember he did a lot of traffic stuff, you know, just mundane stuff,” Martha said. “He grew from there and decided we were going to try to get back to North Carolina, which is where we’re from. We moved to Chattanooga and moved to the Chattanooga Times, which was part of the New York Times. He wrote for them for a number of years.”
Kevin Wilkerson, son, learned how to write at an early age and decided to follow in the steps of his father to become a writer.
“I know he got me interested in writing,” Kevin said. “He paid for me to go to the University of Alabama, out-of-state tuition, for me to take journalism. I think that’s an indication of how important writing and journalism is to him. He instilled in me writing newspapers, newspaper style, being accurate, doing your research and a lot of training to be a journalist. When we were kids, he would always have us read the road signs so you would know where you were.”
Worth covered thousands of stories in his career, but none stood out quite like his piece on the John F. Kennedy assassination Nov. 22, 1963.
“I remember when I was kid sitting out in the backyard in Chattanooga — he was with the Chattanooga Times,” Kevin said. “I was eating a box of raisins and my mother came out and said, ‘Your father’s going to be home late tonight. President Kennedy got shot.’ I don’t know exactly what he did, but he was on deadline on a desk ... he was involved in that coverage. It was owned by the New York Times at the time. I had that little box of raisins and used to eat those all the time, but after that moment, I did not like raisins.”
The Wilkersons moved to Tellico Village in 1989 following Worth’s tenured career at Tennessee Valley Authority. While there, he helped publish a company-wide magazine, TVA Today.
Several years later, Worth and John Sullivan brainstormed ideas to create a local publication that would help keep residents informed of news and various events in the Village.
The Connection started in January 1994 and was published twice a month for all property owners.
“It gave more information of what was going on the Village, what people needed to know, activities — it was just a newspaper for the Village,” Martha said. “They did that and explored things all around the area for people to do, what was going on with the POA and everything such as that. They worked out of an office in Loudon. It went out to all property owners, so that even went to people that weren’t even living in the Village. ... It was very popular for everybody.”
The Connection and Tellico Village Directory were sold to the News-Herald on Oct. 1, 2001.
“I think it got pretty time-consuming,” Martha said. “They were spending an awful lot of time, and, of course, they were retired, so they just got tired of being so confined. They decided maybe it was time for them to sell it. We were pretty tied down.”
Now a public relations professional in California, Kevin still holds tight to everything his father taught him and credits him for being the writer he his today.
“The whole story was a great read,” Kevin said. “It could be a short piece, it could be a really long piece, but it read so well that it was always perfect. He once told me, ‘A story should be the length of a woman’s dress — short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the important parts.’ I tell people, ‘You’ll never forget this’.”