Pete Mullis Mann
Pete Mann, a local retired professor, former Mayor of Wilkesboro, and community member ends his journey on this earth at the age of 73.
Pete Mullis Mann was born to JD and Frances Mann in Harmony, NC on October 29th, 1946. The son of a tobacco farmer and rural mail carrier, Pete spent his early years working on the farm and being grateful for every day he got to attend school to get a break from farm work. As a child, Pete was known to carry around snakes and frogs in the pockets of his overalls. He was reckless with his horse and could jump on and off of it while riding it through a pasture. As a teen, Pete continued his daredevil experiments, intentionally wrecking cars on gravel roads and he could even remove and replace the steering wheel of a car as he was driving. Later on as a father, he would drive scarily close to rock walls to narrowly escape wrecking only to laugh and tell his daughters he had missed his calling to be a NASCAR driver. He was never an athlete but did letter in high school for being a statistician for the basketball team.
Pete was born into very humble beginnings with no indoor plumbing and he was able to see the ground in between the wood planks of the floor in his bedroom. He appreciated his childhood, but longed for a better life and managed to attend college at Mars Hill. After his freshman year, he went on a date with Rebecca Ann “Becky” Comer (whom he had known since kindergarten) and the rest with them was history. His father raised him to be a preacher and he did go on to Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville Kentucky to obtain his first graduate degree, at that point married to Becky, the love of his life. While in Kentucky, Pete and Becky welcomed their first child into the world in January 1971, Jennifer Lynn Mann Lankford (now of Sydney, Australia). They struggled financially but made ends meet and were very happy.
In 1973, while on a visit back to North Carolina following the unexpected death of his father, Pete landed a teaching position at Wilkes Community College (WCC). This would go on to become the home of his professional career and so many Mann family memories for the next 41 years. In 1974, Pete and Becky had their second daughter, Alison Rebecca Mann (now of Asheville, NC). Shortly thereafter, they moved from a very small house in North Wilkesboro to a much larger home and property just past Main Street in Wilkesboro. It was from that vantage point on Barricks Hill Drive that Pete saw Lenderman’s Shoe Store on fire on Main Street and decided he wanted to help, thus leading him to become a Wilkesboro Fireman for 23 years. In his final years with the Wilkesboro Fire Department, Pete served as Chaplain providing comfort to citizens during times of crisis. But his daughters will never forget the sight of him entering burning buildings or waking up in the morning smelling his smoky turnout gear and knowing he had been out all night but would still go to work and teach his classes.
For 41 years, Pete was an instructor of English, Philosophy, and Religion at Wilkes Community College and taught hundreds of members of the community who went on to various other careers in Wilkes. Early on in his career, Pete continued his education, obtaining a second graduate degree from Appalachian State University in 1975. He was known for lectures that began with him scribbling something on a piece of paper and then wadding it up and throwing it overhanded into a waste basket across the classroom while saying, “Watch out, Michael Jordan”. He was also very popular for offering an all-expense paid trip to Wilbar, NC for perfect attendance. He purchased four season tickets at the John A. Walker Community Center before it even opened, row D, center and would go on to entertain himself, family and friends with attendance at countless shows there. Both his daughters participated in many plays and musicals there and he always sent them roses on opening nights.
Pete and Becky went on to obtain many professional accomplishments. They formed a technical writing business called Techniform. Much to their teenage daughters’ dismay the Mann family home telephone had to be answered by saying “Techniform, how may I help you?” They also wrote a college English textbook, “Essay Writing: Methods and Models”, that paid for both of their daughters’ college educations.
Perhaps one of Pete and Becky’s greatest accomplishments was the world travel they were able to experience and provide for their daughters on teachers’ salaries. Through a travel company, they led group travel trips to Europe starting in the late 80’s and continuing for many years. Through this leadership, they earned free trips for themselves and their daughters thus being able to show their family many parts of Europe. It was on one of these trips their eldest daughter met her husband, Arthur Hall Lankford (now of Sydney, Australia), to whom she has now been married for over 25 years. Pete was also Arthur’s academic advisor at WCC and claims that he first noticed Jennifer in a picture in Pete’s office and thought that he would marry her. In addition to these trips to Europe, Pete and Becky also took their family on numerous vacations to the North Carolina coast, countless camping trips at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia, excursions out west to see the country, the west coast and the redwoods, and trips to New York City and New England. For the Mann family, many Sundays were spent having KFC picnics on the parkway.
Pete saw his wife, Becky, through her journey with cancer which ended in 2002, far too young at the age of 54. He worked tirelessly to seek a cure for her, making countless trips to Winston for chemo and to California to a holistic cancer treatment center to seek support for both her and for him as a caregiver. Pete and Becky were the best of friends and partners and it is with great sorrow that their daughters can now feel at peace knowing they have been reconnected in the great beyond. Pete has missed Becky so much and the Mann family finds comfort in knowing they are together again, finally.
For the last 20 years, Pete has known tremendous joy in his three grandsons, Austin, Charlie, and Davis Lankford. They have been thoroughly devoted to their Pa and have brought him so much happiness and fulfillment. He enjoyed trips to Disneyworld with them, many family pool nights, and he loved taking them to local stores and letting them pick out anything they wanted him to buy for them. Austin is now of North Wilkesboro, NC and Charlie and Davis both reside in Sydney, Australia.
Pete has been a pillar of the Wilkes community for so many years. He was thrilled to serve as Mayor of Wilkesboro from 1995-1999 and he worked tirelessly to make his community a better place and to serve his church, St. Paul’s Episcopal, where he has been a member since 1979. As Mayor, he achieved many firsts for Wilkesboro including the first town motto, “Where the Mountains Begin” and the first town flag and seal, both of which are still used today. He served in numerous leadership roles at St. Paul’s including Senior Warden and church historian as well as chairing and serving on numerous other committees.
Pete has also always been a staunch supporter of the Yadkin River Greenway, of which Becky was one of the four co-founders. He spent a great deal of time indulging his wife in her love of walking urban trails including assisting her in creating all the maps she created for the book she wrote, “Walking Raleigh and Durham”.
Throughout his life, Pete maintained very close relationships with his dear siblings, Joe Mann (of Olin, NC), Roxan Daughtridge (of Zebulon, NC), and Penny Mann-Wood (of Lander, WY). He is the proud and doting uncle to 13 nieces and nephews on both the Mann and Comer sides of the family. To be the patriarch and the oldest living male Mann has been a source of great pride and contentment for Pete.
Pete’s family hopes that he rests in peace finally reunited with his soulmate, Becky, knowing that his life has made a difference in the world and feeling assured that he has in no doubt left the earth in better shape than in which it was first encountered by him.
Pete’s family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Rose Glen Village, Villages of Wilkes, Wilkes Dialysis Center, and Wilkes Regional Medical Center for years of compassion and care for him. At these various places, Pete encountered countless former students now in various roles of being his nurses and CNA’s and the amount of sincerity with which they cared for him was truly beautiful to see and sincerely appreciated by his family.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at a later date when travel is safe for friends and family. Jennifer and Alison are forever grateful to their father’s village of loved ones who blessed him with countless rides to dialysis, visits, cards, and phone calls. Memorials may be made in his memory to the Kidney Cancer Association at https://www.kidneycancer.org.
In his own words, Pete has been one happy man.
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