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Wilson County Fair honors four community servants

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

Every year, the Wilson County Fair honors selected local senior citizens who have made major contributions to the community, and this year’s Old Timers, as the award is known, are Alvin McKee, Frank and Carolyn Dudley, and Mattie Ricketts.

The Old Timer Award is sponsored by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. and will be presented during the Business Before Hours meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the Fiddler’s Grove Pavilion. It is hosted by Wilson County Promotions and the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Alvin McKee is a member of the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame and owned as well as operated the Wilson County Livestock Market for over 25 years until it closed its doors this June.

The “Sale Barn,” as the Livestock Market was known, was started in Lebanon in 1935 by the late businessman Jim Johnson. McKee got involved when a new building was built on West Main Street between the Kroger Shopping Center and Rocky Road in 1950.

In the late 1950s, McKee began his lifetime career as a livestock dealer. He served as a livestock buyer for many livestock trading businesses where he earned a national reputation as an “exemplary” cattleman.

He has a lifetime membership in the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association and has won the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Distinguished Service Award, Charolais Distinguished Service Award and an Outstanding Effort to the Livestock Trading Industry from Edward’s Feed.

McKee was recognized by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2002 and 2006 for his outstanding career and commitment to the state. He and his family business have supported many agricultural related programs including 4-H, the FFA Foundation, Ag. in the Classroom, Block & Bridle and the Wilson County Fair.

Frank and Carolyn Dudley have both served Wilson County for more than 50 years in many different areas.

Mr. Dudley participated in the organization of the Crisis Call Center and was a board member. The Call Center later became the Cumberland Mental Health Center.

He has been a member of the Lebanon Kiwanis Club for 46 years, holding all key leadership posts. He served as a deacon and later as an elder of the College Street/College Hills Church of Christ for more than 30 years.

Dudley operated a beef cattle farm for 33 years on Coles Ferry Pike and raised registered and certified Santa Gertrudis cattle. He participated and supported the Wilson County 4-H Feeder Calf program.

He worked for the U.S. Agricultural Department as a grain inspector supervisor from 1956-1963. In 1963, he began employment with the K.O. Lester Company serving later as a partner and holding key roles in senior management. He was responsible for the organization of the company’s institutional department, and was instrumental in preparing the company for its sale to Performance Food Group. He retired as senior vice-president.

Mr. Dudley was also a member of one of the first Lebanon City Planning Commissions in 1964 and a principal organizer of Academy Bank.

Mrs. Dudley taught in the Wilson County Public School System for 22 years. She taught speech and drama and coached the Lebanon High School Forensic team to three district competition wins over a three-year period and also saw her students compete successfully in state tournaments. She had one student during her career to compete in the Forensic national competition.

She taught public speaking privately for five years. She was honored by the Middle Tennessee Distributive Education Organization as Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1983.

She said her greatest accomplishment was being an “overeducated babysitter for her four grandchildren: Karah, Kalyn, Ben and Blair.”

The Dudleys have been married for 57 years.

Mattie Ricketts was a member of the original Wilson County Fair Board of Directors, when the Fair was reinvented in 1979.

 She was born and raised in Mississippi and met her husband, Howell, when he was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

 The Ricketts moved to Watertown in 1966.

After working with the Fair Board, she accepted employment at Toshiba and worked for the electronics manufacturing facility in Lebanon for some 22 years.

She is a faithful member of the Round Lick Baptist Church in Watertown and taught Sunday School at the church for many years.

She currently serves as the president of the Watertown Senior Citizen’s Club and is an active participant at Lebanon’s Senior Citizen’s Center.

Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at ben@wilsonpost.com.

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