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Bill Kirby Jr.: A heartfelt and fitting farewell by the pier overlooking the waterfront


WHITE LAKE — This is where he would want to be, with a nearing sunset washing the tiny, benign waves ashore and leaving the summer solstice behind.

This was home.

This was the lake Tim Kinlaw loved all his life.

“He was just always very selfless in providing his time and his expertise on anything he could do to help out the town,” longtime White Lake Mayor Goldston Womble says. “It was like a labor of love for him, and he was so well thought of by the folks here at the lake.”

From age 7, Tim Kinlaw embraced every day of life at this Bladen County resort from working as a youngster at Goldston’s or Crystal beaches or later skiing on the crystal-clear waters, watching young folks on the Ferris wheel and amusement rides, dances in the pavilion, taking part in the White Lake Water Festival, visits to Camp Clearwater, serving with the White Lake Volunteer Fire Department or stopping by for just a quick bite of “Miss Judy’s” chicken salad at the Goldston’s Beach grill or 18 holes with late friend Larry Johnson at White Lake Golf Course.

He could tell you about how folks heading Wrightsville Beach way and how they couldn’t help but stop at Melvin’s in nearby Elizabethtdown for a hot dog all the way with mustard, onions, chili and slaw. He could tell you about breakfast at the Corner Cafe along Broad Street or the Italian cuisine at Giorgio’s on a Saturday night. 

“Tim and his wife, Cathy, both just had a history with White Lake,” Womble says. “Their families grew up here, Cathy’s in the summertime. And Tim’s family. Cathy and her family had a great history with the White Lake Ski Heels and did a lot to promote White Lake along with Tim. I say Tim and Cathy, because it is hard for me to think of one without thinking of the other. They were always together.”

‘The consummate professional’

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he was a standout soccer goalie, Tim Kinlaw had a calm and assuring way from his work as director of inmate activities for the N.C. Prison System in the late 1970s to director of facilities at Bladen County Hospital in 1984 and in 1985 at Duke University,  and in 1988 as director of operations and planning for Bladen County. He became an associated superintendent for facilities in 1993 with Cumberland County Schools, including two roles as interim superintendent until his retirement in 2019.

“Tim was the consummate professional,” says Bill Harrison, superintendent for Cumberland County Schools from 1997 to 2009. “He was smart, had an incredible work ethic and developed positive relationships with all with whom he worked. His integrity was unquestioned. I had confidence and complete trust in him. We had a great time during good and tough times, and we always found a way to laugh.”

Tim Kinlaw wasn’t pretentious.

He treated everyone in the school system with respect, and it made no difference if you were a principal, a veteran teacher or a first-year teacher or a cafeteria cook or a janitor buffing the hallways.

“In the 17 years I worked with Tim Kinlaw, I never questioned his loyalty or his expertise,” says Greg West, a five-time school board chairman now in his 21st year on the board. “He always put the students and employees of Cumberland County Schools first and successfully led us through our largest new school building program. Twice, we had to ask him to be interim superintendent and he didn't blink and said, ‘Whatever you need me to do.’ It is ironic to me that one of our greatest educators wasn’t an educator by degree, he was a facilities person that put people first and, in the end, that’s more
important than any building. He will be greatly missed.”

Timothy Horne Kinlaw died Monday at his White Lake home.

He was 71.

“As associate superintendent for auxiliary services, Mr. Kinlaw held the responsibility of ensuring that all of our school district facilities were exceptional learning environments,” Marvin Connelly Jr., the county schools superintendent, said Tuesday when word came that Tim Kinlaw’s Stage 4  cancer fight was at end. “Additionally, he provided leadership over several other areas including, but not limited to, transportation, technology and Child Nutrition Services. Mr. Kinlaw's leadership left an enduring impact on our district. We remember Mr. Kinlaw as a go-getter who cared deeply about our students and staff. We pay tribute to a man who dedicated his life to the betterment of Cumberland County Schools, and we will forever cherish his legacy of service and commitment to educational excellence.”

‘A very special place’

They’ll come this day as the sunset nears over the Lake Church in this Autumn Equinox season that looks out over the pier and toward the gentle waters that brought Tim Kinlaw such joy.

“White lake was a very special place to Tim, no doubt,” the Rev. Cameron McGill will tell us this day. “Tim loved the Lord, his family and his community. He was a giver, and not a taker. In spite of the fact that he held many positions that would bring most people into criticism and dislike, everyone loved Tim. Whether you worked alongside of him or called him your boss, you had great respect for him, and he had great respect for you.

“Tim was a dear, personal friend that I was able to spend much time with over the last 10 years. He always took time to share wisdom and encouragement with me, and that’s what I will never forget.

“My fondest memory of Tim will always be something that happened a few months back,” the preacher would say. “I had finished preaching and had extended an invitation as I do every Sunday. Tim walked briskly down the aisle and grabbed me by the hand and said, ‘I love Jesus and he loves me.’”


The Lake Church, which Mr. Kinlaw helped establish, was a part of Tim Kinlaw’s being, just like this community and this lake.
“I can’t image Tim’s memorial service being anywhere else,” the Rev. Cameron McGill says. “This special place truly is ‘holy ground.’ It has been a place of healing for Tim during his sickness these past few years and we pray that it will provide a sense of healing to his family and friends as we gather together on Sunday afternoon. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past 10 years listening to Tim tell of growing up at the lake as a boy, working around the lake as a teen and living on the lake that was a ‘dream come true’ for him as an adult. There’s just something special about life at the lake and I know Tim wanted us to gather by the lake to say our words of tribute as we gather together.”

No more fitting place, Tim Kinlaw would want all of us this day to know. And no more finer place, Tim Kinlaw would want us to know, too, than calling White Lake home.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

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Cumberland County, Tim Kinlaw, schools