When Wilton Bunn found out North Garner Middle School would rename its football field after him at an April school board meeting, he said it was one of the best moments in his life.
But that moment was topped on Thursday, when the school actually made the name change to the Wilton H. Bunn Field. The same field, Bunn was coached on. The same field his children played on. And the same field he cuts and maintains, even today.
When asked how it felt, he struggled to find the words to describe it.
“I’m overcome with joy and I’m very humbled by it,” Bunn said. “Seeing this... it’s actually brought things down to reality.”
Bunn was a former football coach and special education teacher at the school for 24 years before retiring.
“It’s one of the things I worked for,” Bunn said. “If you work hard, good things come. And this is part of the icing on the cake.”
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.
Coaches and children from other schools constantly comment on how well the field is kept.
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.
Principal Greg 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.
Butler and Bunn’s wife, Debra Bunn, who works part time at the school surprised the former coach at a school board meeting in April. Wilton Bunn had no idea the field was going to be named after him when the announcement was made.
Bunn was recognized by the school at the halftime of its football game.
Butler noted the many people at the game there in support of Bunn.
“It’s a testament to why we did this,” Butler said. “Because of all that he has done and all the lives he has touched and continues to touch. And looking at this playing surface our kids get to play on, rivals most high school football fields. So it’s just a testament to everything Mr. Bunn has done throughout his career and continues to do through his retirement.”
The field was perfectly manicured for the game and the ceremony. After all, Bunn cut the grass at 7 a.m. that morning.
As he walked onto the field with Butler, his wife and three adult children, he waved at the many people in the crowd. The moment had finally come. Among those in the crowd were, Mayor Ronnie Williams, Mayor Pro-tem Ken Marshburn, fellow teachers, former teammates in college, relatives from Virginia and his grandchild.
“It’s more than I imagined,” Bunn said. “Some people put some great effort into getting here just for this at that’s very appreciated. It brings a tear to your eye.”
And now the field he has taken care of for more than 20 years and will continue to take care of, is finally his.