Friends and family gather to remember John Willingham - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Friends and family gather to remember John Willingham

(WMC-TV) - Friends and family remembered John Willingham Sunday on what would have been his 81st birthday.

Willingham died Wednesday from congestive heart failure.

In the community he was known as a master of barbecue and a grassroots, no-nonsense politician.

But those who knew him best say he was the grand champion of many things.

"Unlike other politicians he was a thinker he was an engineer he held 17 patents he was the best that an American can be he was both a man of character and a man of the the people," said longtime friend Bill Wood.

"He was so much fun to be around and it just feels so weird going to Grandma's and not seeing him in his special chair that he was always in," Willingham's granddaughter Terra Wilbanks said.

Willingham was a former pro baseball player, a veteran, an engineer. It was the barbecue business made him famous around the world.

Daughter Kristy Goldsmith remembers her father's big heart. "I just think of my dad as this wonderful man."

Willingham thought of barbecue as a sport the entire family could play.

And in that secret sauce...he saw a way to bring people together.

"I guess the greatest the greatest thing he enjoyed was getting all kids of people together enjoying barbecue and fellowship," Ken Ellsperman said.

"It was an honor to know John -- a great man."

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV . All rights reserved.

 

Friends and family remembered John Willingham Sunday on what would have been his 81st birthday.
Willingham died Wednesday from congestive heart failure.
In the community he was known as a master of barbecue and a grassroots, no-nonsense politician.
But those who knew him best say he was the grand champion of many things.
"Unlike other politicians he was a thinker he was an engineer he held 17 patents he was the best that an American can be he was both a man of character and a man of the the people," said longtime friend Bill Wood.
"He was so much fun to be around and it just feels so weird going to Grandma's and not seeing him in his special chair that he was always in," Willingham's granddaughter Terra Wilbanks said.
Willingham was a former pro baseball player, a veteran, an engineer.  It was the barbecue business made him famous around the world. 
Daughter Kristy Goldsmith remembers her father's big heart. "I just think of my dad as this wonderful man."
Willingham thought of barbecue as a sport the entire family could play.   
And in that secret sauce...he saw a way to bring people together.
"I guess the greatest the greatest thing he enjoyed was getting all kids of people together enjoying barbecue and fellowship," Ken Ellsperman said.
"It was an honor to know John -- a great man."

  
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