Bill Kirby Jr.: Brenda Wilson ‘loved to do life,’ says preacher


By Bill Kirby Jr. | Journalist

A daughter stood tall and solemn on this celebrated and remembered day in a mother’s life.

“My mom was just as beautiful on the inside,” Heather Wilson Tuttle told those who gathered at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church on Thursday in remembrance of Brenda Heath Wilson. “I am grateful to my mother for teaching me grace and always believing in me.”

The moment was poignant.

A girl’s words were heartfelt and echoed throughout the shrine.

“I thought Mom would live to be 90,” she said.

Brenda Heath grew up in Eastover’s white frame house on Old Dunn Road long before the red light came on. She was the second of three daughters and a son of the late John F. Heath and Katie Heath.

“It was just a normal childhood,” sister Betty Heath Moore says of what was a quiet, simple life in the 1950s and 1960s. “We played in the streets. It was a good time to grow up. Brenda was a little girl.

She loved her hair curls and hair bows. She liked to play at home. And later pale with friends to include Kay Fussel, Janice McLaurin, Joyce Bland, Sue Ellen Smith, Marilyn Matthews, Linda Peoples and Betty McCorquodle at the old Central High School, Class of 1965, and later with friends to include Peggy McDonald and Elaine Folino.

Sundays were for worship just down Interstate 95 at the Second Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Wednesdays too.

Brenda Heath was friendly. She was lively. She had crystal blue eyes and a smile brighter than the sun breaking on the morning dew. She liked to dance the jitterbug and the “Carolina shag”.

“The children would dance to tunes coming from a jukebox,” said the Reverend Bruce Herrmann. “Gary was 17 and noticed 15-year-old Brenda and asked her to dance.”

Together, they will dance all their life. He hugged her to him. She would be dear to him.

Miss Fayetteville 1966

Gary Wilson should first share Brenda Heath with all of us, the campaign girl crowned Miss Fayetteville in 1966 in the old Fayetteville High School auditorium. She looked elegant in her pageant dress and could walk down a catwalk with confidence. She tap-danced to the “Alexander Ragtime Band”, replete with her long tuxedo tails, white shorts, cane and the tip of her top hat that dazzled the pageant judges. She would win the Miss North Carolina Scholarship Contest swimsuit contest.

She loved beauty contests, and Miss Rhododendron and Miss Apple Blossom would become her many crowns.

“Following her and cheering her on,” Moore says, “was exciting for us and for her.”

Gary Wilson took Brenda Heath as his wife on October 23, 1967.

“For Gary, he knew from the moment he met Brenda that she would be the love of his life,” the preacher said. “The love of a lifetime. The love he wanted to commit to. In his own words, ‘Brenda is the only woman he’s ever loved.’

The couple would raise a daughter and a son.

“Heath and Heather could not have wished for a more loving and supportive mother to raise and love them,” the preacher said. “It meant the world to Heather to hear her mother’s words, ‘I believe in you’, and to offer her words of encouragement. For Heath, he knew he could always trust his mother as his confidante. Ever since I’ve known Gary, he’s sung Brenda’s praises, acknowledging her as a gift from God to be loved and cared for, and God’s gift to be cared for and loved.

Brenda Wilson found her niche as a cosmetologist in the small shop in Raeford Road where she styled the hair of loyal customers, including older women there to ‘get their hair fixed’, brides-to-be, young girls preparing for junior -prom and beauty pageant contestants. And in 2008, Queen Noor of Jordan sat in the chair of Brenda Wilson’s beauty salon.

“She loved her job,” said the preacher. “It was his passion. Her experiences with pageants and cosmetology have allowed her to hone her skills in hair styling, makeup, posture, walking and props. She liked to share her talent with budding beauty queens. Many of “his” daughters have actually won a crown. She also saved the day for many brides and bridesmaids.

Every day was a blessing, the preacher said, in Brenda Wilson’s life.

“When she came out of the house, she was ready to meet the world,” Herrmann said. “Hairstyle, make-up, clothes, shoes, accessories and smile. That all-important smile that allowed her inner beauty to shine through and brighten your day. She loved to make life with you, whether she held scissors, cards, a fork, a hymn, or your hand. She loved spending time with you.

And how Brenda Wilson adored these six grandchildren during her retirement years like only a grandmother could.

“This horrible disease”

Primary progressive aphasia is a cruel disease.

It can affect your ability to speak, remember, and possibly take away your motor skills.

“During this horrible illness she endured,” said the preacher. “His trust and faith in his God never wavered. She knew his blessings and rested in him during difficult times. She knew her earthly blessings, and the blessings that awaited her in heaven far exceeded the struggles of the past few years.

“She was a woman of strong faith who feared the Lord, which means she was in awe of who he was as the creator of the world… the one who gave her this life and a savior in Jesus Christ. Brenda’s faith made her the person we loved, admired and could make us laugh about. Her faith guided her to treat you as she wanted to be treated and loved. She praised her Lord. Even then, she could barely utter a word, she was singing.

Brenda Heath Wilson passed away on August 29, her family by her side. She was 75 years old.

“She loved,” says Betty Moore, “and she knew she was loved.”

In her last years there were trips to Betty Moore’s farm in Wade, where Brenda Wilson loved the scenery and being with her sister Phyllis Highsmith and brother Johnny Heath in what was “the place happy” by Brenda Wilson during these tender Wednesday afternoons.

“She was larger than life,” says Phyllis Highsmith. “She had a spirit. She was my hero. She paved the way for me when we were little and teenagers. She was my protector. I was her biggest fan, and she was mine. She taught me how to dance and how to do makeup. She gave me confidence. She made me want to be a better person. She had so many wonderful qualities. Behind all that beauty and poise and grace, she could go from that beauty queen smile to a Hee-Haw moment. I am so grateful to God who chose her to be my sister.


A daughter stood tall and solemn on this celebrated and remembered day in a mother’s life.

“I thought Mom would live to be 90,” Heather Wilson Tuttle told us. “She fought so hard until the end. ‘Because you loved me’, the song came out the other day. It sums up how I feel about her. ‘You were my strength…I’m everything what I am because you loved me.”

There would be no final farewell.

“I’m not saying goodbye, mom,” a girl would say. “I say I’ll see you later.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at or 910-624-1961.


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