Leaving a legacy: Community mourns Wilson

Kerry L. WilsonKerry L. Wilson

By Donna Thornton/News Editor

Downtown Gadsden and the surrounding community ended 2013 mourning the loss of local businessman Kerry L. Wilson.

Wilson, 58, died on Dec. 29.

“We’ve lost a good one,” Downtown Gadsden Inc. Director Kay Moore said. “He knew his business, he knew how to run his business and he knew how to treat people.

“Kerry was so good to so many people,” Moore said, “and no one would know about it because he didn’t tell anyone.”

Wilson, opened Kerry Wilson Insurance in 1991. What began as a home office grew until Wilson purchased the old Ike Saks building at the corner of 5th and Broad. After about a year of remodeling on the historic building, Kerry Wilson Insurance relocated there, along with Illusions Salon and other rental properties.

“Kerry told me ‘I’m doing this for a legacy for my kids and grandkids,’ while he was working on the building,” Selena Morton said. 

‘Little did we know how quickly it would become  a legacy.” Morton became friends with Kerry his wife Joyce during the time she operated Downtown Deli, inside what was Gadsden Variety Store and a location on Chestnut Street.

While Wilson may have seen his legacy in bricks and mortar, he clearly built another legacy with those who knew him: one of compassion, generosity and willingness to give help to anyone who needed it.

“He was always there for you,” she said. During a time when Morton’s father was hospitalized, she came to her business on Chestnut Street to discover a break-in.

In the middle of dealing with police to report the break-in, she got a phone call, saying her father had taken a turn for the worst.

“Kerry came and fixed the locks and took care of the business so I could leave,” Morton said.

She went to visit Wilson about two weeks ago in the hospital, she said.

Morton, who now manages Airport Café on Ala. 77, said, the first thing he said was “I’ve been helping you.”

“With my business?” she asked. And Wilson, despite difficulty talking, told her he’d been telling people they needed to visit her at the café.

Wilson offered that kind of support to many of downtown Gadsden’s business owners.

“Kerry and his family made you feel like family,” Terry Jennings, owner of Little Faces Doll Shop, said. “He was a very caring man.” She recalled that when her niece and nephew lost their father, Wilson made a point of coming to see them, to bring a watch their father had left with him.

Jennings recalled a female customer from out of town visiting her store, saying she’d busted a tire and didn’t know what she was going to do. Jennings said she called Wilson, and he and others at his office were able to make arrangements for her to drive home or to get the tire repaired.

Terry May, of Blooms on Broad, said the business staff worked with Wilson closely on the remodeled office, and she felt blessed to have gotten to know him.

“He was the kind of person who would take time to help anyone – family, friend, acquaintance or stranger,” May said.

 “Kerry was so energetic,” Moore said. “When he got involved with DGI, it was full-blown involvement.” He was a ready source of ideas and advice, all aimed at making the downtown business community thrive and grow.

Wilson was tireless in his efforts to renovate the old Ike Saks building.

“He was so careful and cautious in what he did. He researched and studied to renovate the building,” Moore said.

Kerry Wilson Insurance opened in the renovated building in May 2013, not long before Wilson became ill.

“It’s just so sad to see someone so young and so vibrant be hit so hard,” Moore said, by illness.

Kerry Wilson Insurance will remain a family-owned business, operated by Wilson’s wife, daughter and son-in-law.

In addition to his business and work with DGI, Wilson was active in the Hokes Bluff Lions Club, and an avid Honda Goldwing Motorcycle rider, with more than 60,000 safe miles logged in more than 17 states. He had a life-long appreciation of music and played clarinet in several community and church orchestras.

Wilson was laid to rest on Jan. 1 at New Bethel Cemetery, following funeral service at Crosspoint Community Church.


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