If Debra Bunn doesn’t see her husband when she comes home, she always knows where she can find him:
On his big blue Ford tractor, dressed in shorts and his North Garner Middle School hat and shirt, cutting the grass and taking care of the North Garner Middle School football field, she said.
Soon the green, perfectly manicured field will be renamed.
Last week, the Wake County Board of Education voted to accepted a request from the school to rename the football field after Wilton H. Bunn Jr. to support his ideals and honor his commitment to the school.
“We have outstanding employees in Wake County and you exemplify that in the labor of love you have given to North Garner Middle School and the community and we thank you,” Board Chairwoman Christine Kushner told him.
Wilton Bunn, a former football coach and special education teacher at the school for 24 years, didn’t know until that night that the football field would be named after him.
It was a surprise. His wife, also a retired teacher at North Garner Middle School, told him that the principal Greg Butler wanted her at the meeting to help with a presentation just in case he needed some back up.
He didn’t want to go, but she persuaded him to.
When Area Superintendent Lloyd Gardner stepped to the podium and began to read a letter to the board that stated they wanted to name the field after Bunn, Bunn said he drew a blank.
He couldn’t believe his ears.
“I didn’t know what to say, except ‘thank you,’” Wilton Bunn said. “I started thinking ‘man they are going to name that field after me?’ I was very humbled.
“It was definitely a surprise to me,” he added. “It was a lot of hard work, and I’m thankful, grateful for the whole thing.”
Butler hatched the plan last fall. He wanted to name the football field after Bunn then, but the person had to have been retired for a year. He called Debra Bunn, who works half a day at the school, into his office and told her of the plan. Tears came down her eyes.
“Just the joy I felt for Wilton,” Debra Bunn said. “I just felt so blessed that it was happening for him.”
Butler said he knows he made the right decision to name the football field after Wilton Bunn.
“We were playing Dillard Drive in soccer the other day and it was just reaffirmation for the decision,” Butler said. “Those Dillard kids’ eyes lit up when they saw the field and they asked ‘we get to play on that field.’”
It was well-deserved, he said.
“Mr. Bunn is the sole reason I have the field I have for my kids to play on for P.E., for sports and other activities,” Butler said. “It rivals what some high school kids get to play on.”
He described Bunn as selfless.
“We felt with his years of dedication to North Garner, it was only right to name the field after him,” Butler said.
Despite his retirement, Bunn continues to maintain the facilities and fields at North Garner Middle. It was part of his routine for more than 20 years. He said he’s always done it for the kids. He wanted his football players and students to have a quality field to play on.
Bunn’s philosophy is that everybody is part of a team and whether that team is athletic, musical, academic, school or community, it is imperative to do your best.
Bunn said last Tuesday was one of the best nights of his life.
“I’ve been in athletics all my life and I guess this is the epitome, the top dog, top notch of everything that I’ve done and kind of accomplished throughout the 64 years of my life,” Wilton Bunn said. “I think it’s probably the top. I mean how many people get a field named after them. It’s a great honor.”
The school will present the plaque with his name on it when football season starts next year, and the field will be officially named after him.
Last Tuesday night, after the presentation, Butler asked Bunn was there anything else the school could do for him.
Bunn had only one request.
“Just let me keep cutting the grass,” he said.