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The Kirby File: Dr. Billy Wiggs put others before himself, and that’s just who Billy Wiggs was in life

'The man we knew,' the Rev. Bruce Herrmann would say about the retired dentist, who died at age 94 on Jan. 5, 'was the man Billy was.'


Billy Wiggs was like many of us who ponder the afterlife.

“I wonder what heaven will be like,” a son would remember conversation no so long ago with a father of such Christian faith.

Billy Wiggs was a believer in the promise of his Lord and savior.

“He accepted Christ as his savior when he was 14,” Dr. Bill Wiggs told those Friday who gathered Friday at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church to celebrate the life of Dr. William J. Wiggs, the retired dentist who for all of his life was such a part of Fayetteville.

He loved calling this city home.

He liked the people – those he knew all of his days and those new acquaintances he would make along his life’s way.

If you were down and out, Billy Wiggs wanted to lift you up. If you or a family member was in a health crisis, he wanted you to know that not only did he care, but how much he cared, with a card or a telephone call or lunch, where you could talk while he quietly would listen.

“The man we knew,” the Rev. Bruce Herrmann would say, “was the man Billy was.”

Billy Wiggs didn’t just practice the Golden Rule. Billy Wiggs lived the Golden Rule.

He was that way.

He was Billy Wiggs.

Fayetteville born and bred

Billy Wiggs was born Dec. 5, 1929, to the late Charles Jasper “C.J.” Wiggs and Rossie Simmons Wiggs in the home along Raeford Road. He was graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1947, when it was downtown along Robeson Street.

He was adventuresome. He was athletic, with a gift for track and field. He was an Eagle Scout with Troop 6 of Highland Presbyterian Church, with nearly 50 merit badges on his chest, including the I947 Carnegie Medal for Heroism presented by Gov. Robert G. Cherry for saving the lives of swimmers who were drowning in the rip currents of Carolina Beach.

“Billy was a lifeguard there, but was off duty, sitting at home when he heard the screams,” told me before the service. “He jumped up and ran to the shore and jumped in that saved the persons in trouble.” 

You wouldn’t have known it, if you knew Billy Wiggs.

“Dad didn’t talk about himself much,” Bill Wiggs, 62, would say about his father.

You wouldn’t have known how academically and athletically gifted he was at Wake Forest University, where he took first place in all 14 track and field competitions of the broad jump, 100-yard dash and 220-yard dash. That he was the first chair trumpet with the Wake Forest College Symphony Orchestra and graduated cum laude in 1951.

He was friends with Arnold Palmer there before Arnold Palmer would become the “king of golf.” And Wake Forest was where Billy Wiggs would meet Sue Lawrence Cullifer, who would become and remain the love of his life.

“She stepped out of her car, and he thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever see,” a son would remember. “He told her he was assigned by the college to escort her around.”

They married in 1954 in her hometown of Murfreesboro, while Billy Wiggs was earning his dental degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Graduating from UNC, he joined the U.S. Air Force and the couple resided at McGill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, before they arrived back in Fayetteville, and Billy Wiggs began his 43-year-dental practice on Fort Bragg Road.

“Mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 44,” Bill Wiggs would say.

In sickness and in health, Billy Wiggs always was there by her side.

Sue Lawrence Wiggs died at age 45 in 1975.

Her death broke a husband’s heart.

“After my mother died, he struggled,” Bill Wiggs would say about his father. “But he never lost his faith.”

Always there for others

Billy Wiggs turned to his Lord and savior. He studied the scriptures, and underlined the passages and wrote in his Bible margins.

“He became the oldest deacon in the church,” Bill Wiggs would tell us.

He became president of the Sunday school class.

And, he was always there for others in their times of trouble or sorrow or need with an encouraging word, a consoling word or just to listen.

“What he said was sincere,” the Rev. Herrmann would say. “It was from his heart. He couldn’t look the other way when someone was in need. He cared. Billy was thoughtful and Billy was kind.”

A son still on Friday could see his father’s devotion to this church with the towering steeple overlooking Westmont Drive in Haymount.

“He served faithfully at this church,” Bill Wiggs would say, “as long as he could walk in the door.”

Dr. William James Wiggs died peacefully on Jan. 5.

He was 94.

“Billy leaves behind a fruitful legacy of caring for others and living a life in Christ,” the Rev. Herrmann would say. “For the seeds he planted; for the fruit he bore. He was a content man with what God provided him.”

He enjoyed, the preacher would say, all of God’s creation.

“He could take in the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset,” Herrmann would say. “He could enjoy it with you and he could do it by himself. Billy lived a wonderful life, an abundant life as a follower of Christ.” 


Bill Wiggs says he just this week was thumbing through his father’s desk when he came upon his father’s thoughts and written words of January 2017 about what heaven would be like.

“I will see family and friends when I get there,” Billy Wiggs wrote. “I’m so glad our family is one of good, strong Christians.”

Billy Wiggs was like many of us who ponder the afterlife, where Christ tells those of us who believe, there are mansions with many rooms in God’s kingdom of heaven, and eternal life.

“Dad told me, ‘I wonder what heaven will be like,’” a son recalls his father’s wonder. “He no longer ponders that.”

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


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