Hunter Oakley Gammon, 91, a proud native son of Rockingham County, World War II Navy veteran, and pharmacist for countless loyal customers for more than six decades, died May 3, 2015 at home surrounded by his family after several months of declining health. Hunter was born Aug. 31, 1923 to Isaac and Dorothy Gammon and spent his childhood in Rockingham County before graduating from Wentworth High School in 1941. With jobs scarce and with only the quarter his father gave him to take out into the world, he enlisted in the US Navy June 17, l941. He was sent to Norfolk Naval Air Station, where he was trained to be a hospital corpsman. It was during that period that he first saw Nancy Forbes Watkins riding down the street on her bicycle. She was, in his words, “the prettiest girl in the world,” and he married her in 1943. They moved to San Francisco and lived there until he shipped out to the South Pacific, where he served on hospital ships and at land-based facilities treating the wounded. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in November of 1945, when he and Nancy returned to Reidsville. He worked at the Carolina Apothecary as their first employee while dreaming of how he would someday become a pharmacist. That dream began to come true in 1946 when he entered St. Louis School of Pharmacy. Nancy moved home to Norfolk to live with her parents, knowing there could be no distractions when Hunter had his mind set on a goal. The following year Nancy joined him in St. Louis and their first son, William Hunter (Bill), was born in 1948 in Norfolk, where Nancy and Bill remained until Hunter finished school. Upon graduation, Hunter and Nancy returned to Reidsville where he went to work at the Carolina Apothecary as a pharmacist, and they set up housekeeping with Bill.
Hunter developed a love of golf in the ensuing years and, in 1954 when he attended his first Master’s, he had another dream. That dream was to build a golf course. In 1956 he began to envision a 9-hole course on the rolling land owned by his uncle off Wolf Island Road. Using a design by Johnny Johnston, Arnold Palmer’s Wake Forest roommate, Hunter “built a golf course out of the trunk of a Studebaker.” He and Nancy named it Wolf Creek. Nancy shared his love of golf and was by his side as Wolf Creek took shape. She managed the golf shop and eventually became head professional after earning certification in the LPGA’s Teaching Division in 1964. Hunter became a credentialed Greens Superintendent and groomed the greens and fairways while also working full-time, then at Link Brothers Pharmacy, until Wolf Creek was sold in 1986. Hunter and Nancy were blessed in 1959 with the birth of their second son, Tracy Watkins Gammon.
That first Master’s in 1954 began a tradition that lasted for 62 straight years, including this April when Tracy packed him up and took him for the last time to the place he loved above all others. He stayed in downtown Augusta in the same room for countless years, going to the golf course by day and eating veal parmesan every night at his favorite restaurant. His wardrobe was planned months in advance. In 2014 the City of Augusta made him an honorary citizen.
Hunter loved Reidsville. He was proud to be a member of the Elks and Moose clubs, past president of the Lions Club and former member of the Rotary Club. He supported Hospice of Rockingham County and the Free Clinic, but most of all, he supported all who sought counsel behind the counter at Link Brothers and the Carolina Apothecary. If the phone rang at home on the weekend, he was out the door to fill a prescription. He continued to work full time until his retirement from the Carolina Apothecary in December of 2012 at age 89. He was given the Key to the City of Reidsville the next month.
Hunter was a loving, supportive and generous father, grandfather and great grandfather and treated his daughters-in-law as his own. He never forgot a birthday. Often a card to his grandchildren and great grandchildren would include a poem he had penned.
Hunter was preceded in death by his beloved Nancy in 2002 and Bill in 2012. Surviving him are his son Tracy and his wife Jettaka of Greensboro; his daughter-in-law Jessica Gillespie Gammon of Raleigh; his granddaughters Margaret Gammon Blythe and her husband Bryan of Charlotte, Courtney Elizabeth Gammon of Hickory, and Katharine Hunter Gammon of Washington, DC ; his great grandchildren, Margaret Davidson Blythe, William Hunter Blythe, and George Gammon Blythe of Charlotte; his sisters, Dorothy Martin of Reidsville and Virginia Cooke of Martinsville, VA; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held at Wilkerson Funeral Home, 1909 Richardson Drive, Reidsville, from 1-3 pm Tuesday, May 5. A graveside celebration of Hunter’s life will follow at 4 pm at Reidlawn Cemetery, 1530 Barnes St., Reidsville.
Hunter was blessed in the last months of life to be lovingly cared for by Lynne Rierson, Faye and Jim Maxwell, Jeri Owen, Lynn Ferguson, and Daniel Thorton. Hospice of Rockingham County provided comfort and support to the family.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to Hospice of Rockingham County or the Gammon Memorial Scholarship fund for Reidsville High School scholar athletes in care of Tracy Gammon, 3904 Dogwood Drive, Greensboro, NC, 27410.