Chicago reporter finds history
By Jack Hurst
Roughly 175,000 souls live in and around this attraction-rich capital of the Land of the Sky, but for the casual sightseer the must-see residences probably number but two, and they represent decidedly opposite ends of the spectrum.
At the upper pole is Biltmore House, the 8,000-acre estate that includes a 4-acre (255-room) house built by world traveler George W. Vanderbilt,
an eminently cultured New York shipping-and-railroad scion whose Carolina digs remain the largest private home in the United States — and which can be seen in the current films "Forrest Gump" and "Richie Rich" -- as well as a string of other movies ranging from Peter Sellers-Shirley MacLaine's "Being There" and scenes from "Last of the Mohicans" all the way back to Grace Kelly's "Them Swan," circa 1960
The Thomas Wolfe House is one of two Asheville homes reporter
Jack Hurst wrote about In a recent Chicago Tribune story.
Just a couple of miles down-town from the Biltmore's regal gate is the Old Kentucky Home, a comparatively spartan 29-room boardinghouse that provided early shelter to a wanderer of more plebeian proportions, star-crossed novelist Thomas Wolfe.
Recently my wife, Donna, and I (tourists of more mundane dimension than either Vanderbilt or Wolfe) visited Asheville on a mission of rediscovery that touched the two historic residences both physically and symbolically.
Donna spent her girlhood fewer than 50 miles from here in a house that probably would have fit comfortably into one of Vanderbilt's kitchens. But much of her actual growing up occurred right here, after she had decamped to an Asheville business college at age 18. This hilly municipality she found both a wondrous and a financially forbidding place.
She began her life-away-from-home in an Asheville dormitory as impersonally bleak as the rooms of the Wolfe house, which she passed daily on the street during her Asheville days but never had the extra pittance to enter. And when her $37.50-a-week first job came along, it was at no less than Biltmore Forest Country Club, a re-creational adjunct to the great Vanderbilt home.
Asheville was and still is note-worthy in itself, of course. South-ern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which winds a leisurely way through eye- (and ear-) pop-ping mountains all the way to Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, this largest city in western North Carolina looks out on the surrounding summits of the Great Smokies as an equal, thanks to its elevation of 2,340 feet. From its early days, not surprisingly, its panoramic scenery has attracted the vacationing rich.
Since such people require appropriate hostelries, Asheville afforded, and still affords, them several – most notably the elegant Grove Park Inn, a resort offering 510 pricey rooms ($121-$285, de-pending on size, view and season) and a guest book whose signers have included, among others, presidents and literary lions. Over the years, in fact, the town's cultural atmosphere has grown with its clientele, and Pack Square downtown now boasts artistically inclined restaurants, coffee shops and book-shops.
Asheville's literary air is genuine, having been breathed by such national notables as novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who reputedly whiled away many hours here drinking and hitting on the Grove Park's female guests while his Zelda received psychiatric treatment in the local hospital in which she finally died. Short story specialist O. Henry, a North Carolinian buried in Riverside Cemetery here, be-came an Ashevillian for a
while after marrying one of its residents. Connemara, a 263-acre farm 26 miles down Interstate 40 at Hendersonville, became home in 1945 to historian-novelist-poet Carl Sandburg. This city has not only hosted but birthed noted writers; the natives include novelists Wilma Dykeman, Gail Godwin and John Ehle. By far the city's best-known literary icon, however, is the word-factory Wolfe, a torrentially prolific and erratically brilliant author whose 1929 novel, "Look Home-ward, Angel," brought Asheville admiration and embarrassment.
Searching in vain for Donna's business college, which since her student days apparently has bowed to the pressures of real estate development and the curricular demands of computer technology, we took North Spruce Street past the Asheville Community Theatre to the Old Kentucky Home, now a state-operated land-mark called the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.
For $1 each, we joined a modest gaggle of the out-of-state curious queuing up inside the door. Wolfe's mother, a local real estate speculator of considerable ambition, operated the home over the objections of her husband, a well-educated tombstone manufacturer who felt keeping boarders was beneath the family's station. Touring the place, with its naked light bulbs hanging from cords, its chamber pots and wash pitchers, its beds crammed into corners and even hallways, one infers the monotonous loneliness of traveling salespeople and others in the early 1900s who occupied this three-story jumble of places of rest.
Next morning we were among the earliest arrivals at Biltmore House, presenting our two $25 ad-mission tickets at the ornate stone gatehouse and then winding a lei-surely 3 miles in a procession of cars to a parking area facing the fabulous stone mansion, which is still owned by the family and run as a private business (it has not been lived in since the 1950s).
There is no way to convey in the space here anything but random glimpses of the tasteful luxury inside:
An entrance hall flanked by the Winter Garden, a stunning skylighted area boasting exotic plants and French rattan and bamboo furniture; the 90-foot-long Tapestry Gallery, a sitting area exhibiting three silk-and-wool wall hangings woven in Brussels circa 1530; the 70-by-42-foot Banquet Hall, complete with barrel-vaulted ceiling and an oak table accommodating 64 people; the Salon for women and the Billiard Room for men; and an awe-inspiring 10,000-volume Library, which required the services of a paid librarian – and which American author Henry James, a 1905 guest, fretted was situated at least a half-mile away from his bedroom.
|WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA|
Avery Commissioner Pat Vance Eller dies at age 67
NEWLAND — Pat Vance Eller, 67, died Wednesday, March 31, in a Charlotte hospital after a Iong illness.
A native of Avery County, he was the son of the late Eugene and Julia Trivett Eller. He was employed by Glen Raven Knitting Mill for 17 years, was a shrubberyman, and had served as Avery County commissioner for the past eight years and chairman for the past seven years. He was a former member of the Avery County Res-cue Squad and was a member and deacon of First Baptist Church of Newland.
He is survived by his wife, Arlean Ledford Eller; two daughters, Margo Eller and Elaine Coffey, both of Newland; three brothers, Roland "Dutch" Eller of New-land, Carl Eller of Concord, and Gene Eller of Miami; five sisters, Mary Smith, Betty Jo Puckett and Lula Smith, all of Banner Elk, Margaret Thompson of Newland, and Grace Goodwin of Rocking-ham; and five grandchildren. Services will be at 11 a.m. Fri-day at First Baptist Church with the Rev. Bill Jones officiating. Burial will be in Newland Cemetery with military graveside rites.
The family will receive friends from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to the Avery County Rescue Squad, Elk Park.
Louise Coolidge, 83, died Sunday (Dec. 11, 1994) at her home in McCook. She was born Jan. 24,1911, in David City, to Troy C. and Evelyn M. (Morgan) Eller. She grew up in David City and graduated from David City High School in 1929.
On Aug. 3, 1934, she married David Coolidge at Kimball. They came to McCook in 1948. She was a member of the Christian Scientist Church of McCook.
She was a weather observer for the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics from 1977 until retiring in 1985.
Survivors include her daughter, SanDee Watson of Lincoln; and one brother, Eugene Eller and wife Marian of Oklahoma City, Okla.
A memorial service will be 10 a.m., Saturday, at Herrmann Memorial Chapel in McCook, with Ben Hormel officiating. Inurnment will be in the David City cemetery at a later date.
A memorial has been established in her memory.
Herrmann Funeral Home of McCook is in charge of arrangements.
Louise Eller Coolidge (Troy Cleveland, Barnett Cleveland, Harvey, Simeon, John, Peter, Geo. Michael)
Dr. Frank W. Eller, E4, f 441 Roselawn Place died Dec. 11, 1994, at Wesley Nursing Center. Funeral is 3 p.m. Tuesday at Amity Presbyterian Church cemetery. Visitation is at the church following the service. Harry and Bryant Funeral Home is In charge.
Dr. Eller, a native of Ronda In Wilkes County, was a retired East Carolina University professor. He had attended Catawba College and Duke University and earned a master's degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and a doctorate at Columbia University in New York. He also Was one of the first professors at Charlotte College (now UNC Charlotte) and a founding teacher at Charlotte Country Day schooi.
Survivors are his son, James Eller of Raleigh; daughter, Mrs. Frances Brown of Enterprise, Ala.; sisters. Mrs. Velma Washington of Greenville, S.C., Mrs. Patty Bums; seven grandchildren; one great-grandchild.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to American Diabetes Association, 3109 Poplarwood Ct.. Suite 125, Raleigh, NC 27604-1043: or to the charity of he donor's choice.
Seeking more info. on Pat Vance Eller and Dr. Frank W. Eller (Eds. of Chronicles)
BIKERS GATHER TO MOURN DEATH OF "1 PERCENTER"
Roanoke Times and World-News, 22 May 1980, Roanoke, VA
Roland Lazenby, Staff Writer
Hundreds of bikers are expected to converge on Vinton today to escort Jerry Dale "Squirrel" Eller, who lived and died a " 1 percenter" on his last run.
"One percenter" is the term loosely used to describe motor cycle outlaws, that small percentage of the population that lives on the road and follows what one called "the law that comes from within."
And the 28-year old Eller, first as a member of upstart local motorcycle gangs and later the organizer and president of the Pagans, embodied everything in that definition.
"He was just a 1 percenter biker. Everything he had revolved around the motor cycle." LaVonne Eller, his wife, said Wednesday night.
"He would play with death like it was a toy." recalled Melvin Booe, a biker friend from Eller's teenage years. But death stopped playing Monday evening when "Squirrel's Harley Davidson left Dale Avenue in Roanoke and struck a light pole, decapitating him.
Friends and family believe the crash was caused by mechanical failure. "Squirrel," they said, "was too skilled a driver to simply loose control."
"You know he loved to pull that big bike up on one wheel." Booe
said, "he played with guns and motorcycles and fast life, Used to be it was a daily occurrence to ride fast... We used to pick the gravel out of each other's back and keep on cookin."
At 1 p.m. today various friends and bikers, including an entourage of Pagans, one of the east coast's most notorious cycle gangs, will meet at Oakley's Vinton Chapel to give "Squirrel a 1 percenter send off to his final resting place at Tombstone Cemetery on Plantation Road.
An "honor guard" of 13 bikers will lead the hearse and the family cars, and the remaining throng of motorcyclists will follow on their bikes, according to family and friends.
"This one is going right through Williamson Road because that was his land, "the biking widow said, adding her husband will be buried, "in western style with elephant ear boots and western shirt."
As with most biker funerals there will be considerable par-tying involved in putting Eller to rest because, friends say, "he would have wanted it that way." But there will be one key element lacking from the Pagan funeral. The motorcycle gang has been asked not to wear its colors or gang patch jackets in deference to Eller's recent split with the group.
"I have a biker funeral planned but not a club run planned," explained Mrs. Eller.
Friends and family feared the request would bring trouble. The Pagans seldom remove their colors for anyone.
Two months ago, Eller was asked to resign as the gang's local president, according to friends, because he and the group had changed. "It got to the point that they were not brothers any-more," a friend explained.
Booe, who had once terminated his friendship with Eller, said he began respecting him again about two years ago when Eller, "started to care about people. He placed his wife and child where they should have been, No. 1."
Because Eller became more family and people-oriented, the split between him, and the Pagans developed, Booe said. Eller began talking more frequently about God, "and you could tell the man had things in life that had be-come important to him."
Eller had frequent run-ins with the law and served time on a number of occasions. The change brought out an entirely different "Squirrel" Booe said, adding that the old "Squirrel" was a power-hungry scoundrel.
"Squirrel wanted power, and with the Pagans he realized that power," Booe said. "He was the only one in this area ornery enough to put on the Pagans colors and say there was goona be a club."
But oddly enough, Booe said, it was the responsibility of being club president that made Eller "grow-up."
"In 28 years the man had more life than the average citizen has in two lifetimes. He changed from a punk kid into a hell of a man, accepting all the responsibility that life had brought him." Booe said.
BIKERS ATTEND BURIAL, PLAN TO PARTY ... by John Witt
More than 100 motorcycles trailed the hearse bearing the body of Jerry "Squirrel" Eller to Tombstone Cemetery Thursday.
The Pagan motorcycle club had come in leather and ragged denims to bury Eller, past president of the Roanoke chapter. It was the kickoff for a week-end long wake. The bikers said Eller would have wanted them to celebrate rather than grieve...
The funeral possession to the Cemetery was a half-mile long and filled the streets with a rumble like a distant artillery barrage. Spectators thronged the route as if it were a parade, holding children aloft for a better view of the helmetless outlaw bikers.
The motorcyclists had come from along the East Coast for a funeral. The guest book at Oakley's Vinton Chapel was signed by Daddy Rat, Farmer John, Moose, Cheese and Crackers.
Many wore the Pagan colors, a yellow demon holding a fiery sword, despite the request of Eller's widow that they refrain from a public display. Bikers sat across the pew from mourning relatives in formal dress, Obscene tatoos and greasy pigtails flanked chiffon dresses and silk neckties. Sobs of grief mingled with the clank of chains.
Since Eller had resigned as leader of the motorcycle chapter two months ago, his widow chose to bury him in cowboy boots and western shirt. A rebel flag was
draped behind the coffin, but-tressed by floral arrangements branding him a "1 percenter." a term used to describe motorcycle outlaws.
On one side of the casket was a spoked wheel with a toy squirrel in the center holding a Harley Davidson emblem. The inscription referred to Eller as, "A true brother who rode hard and died young."
Eller had a criminal record and a reputation for dealing harshly with his enemies. The motorcycle salvage shop he ran on Williamson Road had been the target of bullets and bombs.
But his friends praised his generosity and leadership. In re-cent years he had learned to control his wilder impulses, they said, and turned his affections toward his family.
The Rev. Charles Doyle eulogized Eller as a loving father and
husband--comparing Eller to the sinning Publican, Levi, who was transformed by Christian love into the apostle Matthew. Doyle, pastor of Hollins Road Baptist Church, said there seemed to be more comraderie among the motor cyclists at Eller's funeral than there was among the congregation of most churches.
Most of the bikers had left the chapel when Eller's mother began weeping over the closed coffin. "He never got too big to kiss his momma," she said.
Obituary: Jerry D. Eller
Jerry Dale "Squirrel" Eller, age 28, of 612 9th St., Vinton, died Monday. Surviving him are his wife; Mrs. Gloria Lavonne Eller; son, Robert Wayne Eller; his mother, Mrs. Della E. Eller of Cloverdale; his father, Lacy J. Eller, Florida; two brothers, Manuel J. Eller and Robin Eller, Colorado