On Oct. 5, Faison will celebrate the 10th Annual Market Day. During the Opening Ceremony at 11 a.m., organizers will recognize “the five Bills” as honorees: Fesperman, Hennessee, Igoe, Lewis, and Williams.
The annual event will culminate with a street dance with John Moore from 5 until 7 p.m.
Between now and Market Day organizers will be sharing “More about Bill” weekly in The Sampson Independent, beginning today.
Blame it on the pickles. As with many families in the area, pickles brought Bill Fesperman to Faison decades ago. And, thanks to those pickles, Bill has worked, volunteered and made many friends over the past 58 years or so.
You might assume his name is William, however that’s not the case – Bill is his given name and he isn’t originally from “down east.” Born in Albemarle (NC) in 1929, he joined the army soon after high school graduation. He served two years during the Korean War, including nine months fighting on the front line, and (he humorously recalls) voluntarily serving as the platoon barber, shaving and cutting the hair of fellow Army men. “I realized I was spending all my free time giving my buddies haircuts, so I eventually passed along my razor to someone else!”
Bill returned home and married Nan Parrish in 1954. He embarked upon a sales career with Campbell’s Soup Company and later joined the sales team at Cates Pickles, leading he and Nan to Duplin County. They had two children (Kim and Chip) and lived on the outskirts of town with no phone or nearby neighbors. With Bill on the road often, Nan gave him the ultimatum: “Move us into Faison or else!” That began their life and endless memories in this small town. Annual Christmas Eve parties, escapades with drapes and furniture at Nan’s Interiors and visits from his grandchildren, Brooke (Goff Tart), Jay and Rebecca (Fesperman) filled his life over the years.
Traveling and selling pickles left little time for hobbies. His wife bought a beach cottage without his knowledge, but what a blessing it was to his family. His love for fishing began on Topsail Fishing Pier where he spent many weekends. Later in life, he would fish with friends Jack Williams and Jimmy Miller on Core Banks at Cape Lookout. They would sleep in their camper on the beach often discussing the “big one” that got away. One evening (before cell phones were reliable), he had everyone in eastern North Carolina searching for him when he didn’t return home from a fishing trip. His family called hospital emergency rooms, the highway patrol, etc. Bill’s first mistake: missing the last ferry from the island; his second mistake: he didn’t call home. Early the next morning, the family reached the ferry operator, who informed them he was scheduled for the morning ferry. The operator informed Bill that he was in hot water when he arrived, and that he better call home!
For over 20 years, Bill was a member of the Faison Volunteer Fire department. His daughter, Kim Fesperman Goff recalls, “As soon as the alarm would sound, I would get up with him, get him into the car, and then I’d direct traffic in the streets.” Bill also got involved politically, serving on the Faison Planning Board and Faison Town Board and serving a term as Mayor.
From traveling the world to sell pickles and attend food shows, to selling pickles at the NC State Fair for the Faison Fire Department, he invested himself in his sales job and made memories and friends along the way. After 35 years of service, he retired from Cates Pickle Company.
In all his years in Faison, Bill has lived within walking distance of Faison Presbyterian Church, where he has been an elder for years. He has volunteered countless hours there, and the church in turn has nurtured him through the loss of his wife, and several health challenges. They make great next-door neighbors!
The Faison Lions Club gained a valuable member when Bill joined in 1996. Selling fruit and boat raffle tickets, as well as riding in parades, have become part of his life. In 2012, he was surprised with the Melvin Jones Fellow Award, Lions Club International’s award for humanitarian work. Despite the fact that his adult children had come to town to attend the meeting (they told him they were just in the area) he never suspected he was the honoree until they mentioned the recipient was a pickle salesman.
At 84 years young, Bill still travels back to Albemarle several times a year to reunite with his high school classmates and buddies who joined the army the same day as he. He often blazes a trail to Goldsboro to visit daughter Kim, and husband Billy, or ventures to Davidson to visit son Chip and family.
If you ride through Faison, you might just see Bill walking with his friends or his dog Missy, riding his bike, eating breakfast with friends at the Piggly Wiggly or maybe tending to the preacher’s garden. Bill considers it an honor to be called a “Faisonite,” and all thanks to…a pickle.