Obituary (or "Bio," if it makes you more comfortable)
Timothy Craig Ellis (Tim), (age), died _______, 20__ at ________________. He was born September 27, 1951 in the old section of the Gaston Memorial Hospital (formerly City Hospital) on North Highland Street just as patients were being moved into the new section.
He was the son of Johnny (Johnie) Moore Ellis and Blanche Blair Glover Ellis, and the grandson of John Craig Ellis and Louella Moore Ellis; and Robert Herman Glover, Sr. and Nancy Ann Reynolds Glover.
Tim was predeceased by his parents, grandparents, a brother, Johnny Patrick Ellis, and many aunts and uncles.
He is survived by his wife of ____ years, Beth Wolfe Ellis, daughter, Summer LeRae Ellis Nunn, son-in-law, Michael Wayne Nunn, grandchildren, Maddox William Nunn, Schafer Ellis Nunn, Reynolds Grace Nunn, two aunts and uncles, and many cousins and friends.
He grew up in the Trenton Mill Village just west of Downtown Gastonia and bounded by South Clay Street, West Franklin Avenue (now Boulevard), the Southern Railway tracks, and the Firestone (Loray) Mill village. He was the fourth generation of his mother’s family and the third of his father’s to live at “The Trenton.” Living in the 100th block of South Clay Street in one of the last houses to be removed (103, 107, and 111 South Clay were demolished following the closure and sale of the mill in 1973.), he witnessed, in the early 1960s, the transformation of the mill village into part of the vibrant West Franklin business and institutional corridor with the construction of a Holiday Inn motel and a Class “A” store of the Sears Roebuck chain on former Trenton property. The eventual decline and disinvestment in Downtown Gastonia and the West Franklin corridor contributed to his lifelong interest in preservation and interpretation of the local built environment. Until the end of his life, the southeast corner of the West Main Avenue/Trenton Street intersection remained “The Center of the Universe.”
He obtained his entire sixteen years of formal education in Gaston County: Abernethy Elementary School (1957-1963), Wray Junior High School (1963-1966), Frank L. Ashley High School (1966-1969), Gaston College (1969-1971), and Belmont Abbey College (1971-1973, BA Magna Cum Laude--Business and Economics). For the rest of his life, he continued a quest for knowledge and understanding.
While in school, he received, among others, the following honors: Track letter (mile), 1966-1969; cross-country letter (2.5 miles), 1969-1971 (MVP inaugural cross-country team—Ashley 1969, All-State, North Carolina Community Athletic Conference—Gaston, 1970; State Champion, North Carolina Community College Athletic Conference 1971); honor roll/Dean’s list (high school and college); National Honor Society, 1969; academic fraternities, Gamma Beta Phi (Gaston), Pi Gamma Mu (Belmont Abbey); band (trumpet), 1966-1969; chorus, 1967-1969.
His formal work history began three days after his sixteenth birthday at the Trenton Mill, where he worked, part-time during school and full-time in the summers, until the mill closed in 1973. In 1973-1974, he briefly served as a District Executive with the Blue Ridge Council, BSA (see below). He was employed in the Display Department of Matthews-Belk Department Store 1974-1976. He worked in the creation and installation of all merchandising displays in the six Downtown Gastonia buildings occupied by the company, including the four-level main store on the north side of the 100th block of West Main Avenue. This period of his employment history greatly influenced Tim’s views on history, architecture, and social interaction, for he experienced first-hand the complex network of personal interrelationships that existed among all those who lived in that pre-shopping mall world. He left the company when it moved to the new Eastridge Mall in 1976. For a year, he worked on a landscaping crew for Kelly Green, a garden center that once stood on South New Hope Road beside Ashbrook High School. In September 1977, he began a 41-year career in the banking industry as a teller with Independence National Bank at the 29 West Branch. While he was working in the Sales Finance Department, the bank became part of Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) of Wilson, N.C. With BB&T, he worked in various lending-related positions until he moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1996, where he worked as a Senior Vice President and original member of First South Bank for 21 years as Consumer Loan Administrator and Compliance Officer until retirement.
He was a lifelong member of Loray Baptist Church (fourth generation), entering the original part of the present building (sanctuary and educational wings) at its opening services, April 13, 1952. He served in many positions in the church throughout his life including Deacon (5 terms beginning when he was 21, making him the youngest Deacon ever elected at Loray), Sunday School teacher for several decades, choir member (children through his entire adult life), chairman and member of many committees through the years, and church historian since 1978 (authoring two books and many articles on the history of Loray).
Tim served as Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America for approximately 29 years in the following troops: Troop 9 Loray Baptist Church, Gastonia, N.C. (1973-1983); Troop 101, First Baptist Church, Shelby, N.C. (1984-1989); Troop 7, First United Methodist Church, Gastonia, N.C. (1989-1993); Troop 11, First Presbyterian Church, Gastonia, N.C. (1993-1996); (all in the Piedmont Council, N.C.) and Troop 2, First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, S.C. (Palmetto Council, S.C.,1997-2002).
Under his leadership, Troop 9 grew to a membership of 40, making it the largest in the troop’s 100+-year history. In 1978, extensive renovation to the Scout Hut was completed, and a great celebration of dedication was held. He led in the resurrection of Troop 101 and enlarged its Scout Room. Troop membership grew to 40+ Scouts, He once again brought a dead troop back to life with the reorganization of Troop 7 along with leadership in creating and then enlarging a Scout Room at the rear of the First Methodist Theater Building. At Troop 11, he led in the creation of a growth environment that built what became one of the premier high adventure troops in the Piedmont Council. At Troop 2, he led in the effort to save the troop’s previously-slated-for-demolition 1941 Scout Cabin and move it to a new location. A marker in the stone chimney of the cabin now proclaims the dates of its construction (1941) and its relocation (2001), both important years in the history of the United States. In 1973-1974, Tim briefly served as a District Executive with the Blue Ridge Council, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, and served in the Anderson and Laurens Districts. He was a First Assistant Scoutmaster with the Piedmont Council contingent to the BSA National Jamborees at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia in 1989 and 1993. In 1987 and 1991, along with Troop 101, he hiked the rugged trails of Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico, climbing the “Tooth of Time” on the final day of both expeditions. In addition, on the first Philmont trip, he and seven scouts hiked 19 miles to the bottom and back out of the Grand Canyon in one day, encountering 110-degree temperatures.
He authored four books and published them through his company, Trenton Creative Enterprises (“TCE”): Three Tales, 2003; A Glimpse as It Passed: Scenes from a Vanished Gastonia, North Carolina, 1973-1993, 2004; A Centennial History of Loray Baptist Church, Gastonia, North Carolina, 1905-2005: Lighting the Way for 100 Years, 2005; and 50 Miles…A Quarter Century Ago: The 1981 50-Mile Hike of Troop 9, Boy Scouts of America, Gastonia, North Carolina, 2006. In 2008, he created and maintained the extensive historical website, www.vintagegastonia.com until his death.
He ran for Gastonia City Council in 1981, finishing third in a five-man field of candidates for his ward. He was proud to have contributed to the efforts to save several historically and architecturally important Gastonia buildings, including Central School, the Loray Mill, Gaston Memorial Hospital, Trenton Cotton Mills, and the Gastonia Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Tim’s love of reading and research led him to amass a library of several thousand volumes, including an extensive collection of Boy Scout literature and insignia. He often referred to his books as friends and advisors, and, in their company, he discovered some of the most pleasant, comforting, inspiring, and enlightening hours of his life.
He taught himself carpentry and construction skills that he employed to erect a shop building at his home in Shelby and to build several bookcases and other pieces of furniture. He also became proficient in bricklaying, learning first-hand how historical architectural details were executed.
Beginning in 1972, with the purchase of a Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR camera, he began photographing structures in and around Gastonia, often just days before their destruction--and sometimes as they were in the midst of that process. Thus, many of his thousands of photographs have become priceless in their depiction of Gastonia’s vanished architectural heritage.
And finally, probably the most fun of all, in 1971-1972 Tim owned and operated The American Egg out of a red, white, and blue 1967 Chevrolet van and a showroom and workshop located in the alley behind a cousin’s florist on West Second Avenue across from the vandalized but not yet burned Abernethy School. He sold a wide array of items, many handmade, that today are viewed as iconic of the colorful and turbulent period of the very early 1970s.
As if adding an exclamation point near the conclusion of a long and satisfying life, Tim and his dear friend from Shelby Scouting days, Hugh (Buck) Walker, drove Route 66 in 2019 (Spartanburg to Shelby to Oklahoma City to Santa Monica, California and back in 15 days) and again in 2022 (Spartanburg to Shelby to Chicago to Santa Monica and back, again in 15 days). To drive Route 66 was a desire of Tim’s since his 20s.
Appreciation is gratefully extended to all those people, especially his Dad and Mom and his wife Beth, who encouraged him and made it possible for him to LIVE HIS DREAMS.
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.” (Bennard)
Memorials may be made to Loray Baptist Church, 1128 West Franklin Boulevard, Gastonia, North Carolina, 28052 and by doing one’s best to "Do a good turn daily.”